January 28, 2022 at 1:10 pm #6260
From Tanganyika with Love
With thanks to Mike Rushby.
- “The letters of Eleanor Dunbar Leslie to her parents and her sister in South Africa
concerning her life with George Gilman Rushby of Tanganyika, and the trials and
joys of bringing up a family in pioneering conditions.
These letters were transcribed from copies of letters typed by Eleanor Rushby from
the originals which were in the estate of Marjorie Leslie, Eleanor’s sister. Eleanor
kept no diary of her life in Tanganyika, so these letters were the living record of an
important part of her life.
Having walked across Africa from the East coast to Ubangi Shauri Chad
in French Equatorial Africa, hunting elephant all the way, George Rushby
made his way down the Congo to Leopoldville. He then caught a ship to
Europe and had a holiday in Brussels and Paris before visiting his family
in England. He developed blackwater fever and was extremely ill for a
while. When he recovered he went to London to arrange his return to
Whilst staying at the Overseas Club he met Eileen Graham who had come
to England from Cape Town to study music. On hearing that George was
sailing for Cape Town she arranged to introduce him to her friend
Eleanor Dunbar Leslie. “You’ll need someone lively to show you around,”
she said. “She’s as smart as paint, a keen mountaineer, a very good school
teacher, and she’s attractive. You can’t miss her, because her father is a
well known Cape Town Magistrate. And,” she added “I’ve already written
and told her what ship you are arriving on.”
Eleanor duly met the ship. She and George immediately fell in love.
Within thirty six hours he had proposed marriage and was accepted
despite the misgivings of her parents. As she was under contract to her
High School, she remained in South Africa for several months whilst
George headed for Tanganyika looking for a farm where he could build
These details are a summary of chapter thirteen of the Biography of
George Gilman Rushby ‘The Hunter is Death “ by T.V.Bulpin.
Terrifically exciting news! I’ve just become engaged to an Englishman whom I
met last Monday. The result is a family upheaval which you will have no difficulty in
The Aunts think it all highly romantic and cry in delight “Now isn’t that just like our
El!” Mummy says she doesn’t know what to think, that anyway I was always a harum
scarum and she rather expected something like this to happen. However I know that
she thinks George highly attractive. “Such a nice smile and gentle manner, and such
good hands“ she murmurs appreciatively. “But WHY AN ELEPHANT HUNTER?” she
ends in a wail, as though elephant hunting was an unmentionable profession.
Anyway I don’t think so. Anyone can marry a bank clerk or a lawyer or even a
millionaire – but whoever heard of anyone marrying anyone as exciting as an elephant
hunter? I’m thrilled to bits.
Daddy also takes a dim view of George’s profession, and of George himself as
a husband for me. He says that I am so impulsive and have such wild enthusiasms that I
need someone conservative and steady to give me some serenity and some ballast.
Dad says George is a handsome fellow and a good enough chap he is sure, but
he is obviously a man of the world and hints darkly at a possible PAST. George says
he has nothing of the kind and anyway I’m the first girl he has asked to marry him. I don’t
care anyway, I’d gladly marry him tomorrow, but Dad has other ideas.
He sat in his armchair to deliver his verdict, wearing the same look he must wear
on the bench. If we marry, and he doesn’t think it would be a good thing, George must
buy a comfortable house for me in Central Africa where I can stay safely when he goes
hunting. I interrupted to say “But I’m going too”, but dad snubbed me saying that in no
time at all I’ll have a family and one can’t go dragging babies around in the African Bush.”
George takes his lectures with surprising calm. He says he can see Dad’s point of
view much better than I can. He told the parents today that he plans to buy a small
coffee farm in the Southern Highlands of Tanganyika and will build a cosy cottage which
will be a proper home for both of us, and that he will only hunt occasionally to keep the
Mummy, of course, just had to spill the beans. She said to George, “I suppose
you know that Eleanor knows very little about house keeping and can’t cook at all.” a fact
that I was keeping a dark secret. But George just said, “Oh she won’t have to work. The
boys do all that sort of thing. She can lie on a couch all day and read if she likes.” Well
you always did say that I was a “Lily of the field,” and what a good thing! If I were one of
those terribly capable women I’d probably die of frustration because it seems that
African house boys feel that they have lost face if their Memsahibs do anything but the
most gracious chores.
George is absolutely marvellous. He is strong and gentle and awfully good
looking too. He is about 5 ft 10 ins tall and very broad. He wears his curly brown hair cut
very short and has a close clipped moustache. He has strongly marked eyebrows and
very striking blue eyes which sometimes turn grey or green. His teeth are strong and
even and he has a quiet voice.
I expect all this sounds too good to be true, but come home quickly and see for
yourself. George is off to East Africa in three weeks time to buy our farm. I shall follow as
soon as he has bought it and we will be married in Dar es Salaam.
Dad has taken George for a walk “to get to know him” and that’s why I have time
to write such a long screed. They should be back any minute now and I must fly and
apply a bit of glamour.
Much love my dear,
S.S.Timavo. Durban. 28th.October. 1930.
Thank you for the lovely send off. I do wish you were all on board with me and
could come and dance with me at my wedding. We are having a very comfortable
voyage. There were only four of the passengers as far as Durban, all of them women,
but I believe we are taking on more here. I have a most comfortable deck cabin to
myself and the use of a sumptuous bathroom. No one is interested in deck games and I
am having a lazy time, just sunbathing and reading.
I sit at the Captain’s table and the meals are delicious – beautifully served. The
butter for instance, is moulded into sprays of roses, most exquisitely done, and as for
the ice-cream, I’ve never tasted anything like them.
The meals are continental type and we have hors d’oeuvre in a great variety
served on large round trays. The Italians souse theirs with oil, Ugh! We also of course
get lots of spaghetti which I have some difficulty in eating. However this presents no
problem to the Chief Engineer who sits opposite to me. He simply rolls it around his
fork and somehow the spaghetti flows effortlessly from fork to mouth exactly like an
ascending escalator. Wine is served at lunch and dinner – very mild and pleasant stuff.
Of the women passengers the one i liked best was a young German widow
from South west Africa who left the ship at East London to marry a man she had never
met. She told me he owned a drapers shop and she was very happy at the prospect
of starting a new life, as her previous marriage had ended tragically with the death of her
husband and only child in an accident.
I was most interested to see the bridegroom and stood at the rail beside the gay
young widow when we docked at East London. I picked him out, without any difficulty,
from the small group on the quay. He was a tall thin man in a smart grey suit and with a
grey hat perched primly on his head. You can always tell from hats can’t you? I wasn’t
surprised to see, when this German raised his head, that he looked just like the Kaiser’s
“Little Willie”. Long thin nose and cold grey eyes and no smile of welcome on his tight
mouth for the cheery little body beside me. I quite expected him to jerk his thumb and
stalk off, expecting her to trot at his heel.
However she went off blithely enough. Next day before the ship sailed, she
was back and I saw her talking to the Captain. She began to cry and soon after the
Captain patted her on the shoulder and escorted her to the gangway. Later the Captain
told me that the girl had come to ask him to allow her to work her passage back to
Germany where she had some relations. She had married the man the day before but
she disliked him because he had deceived her by pretending that he owned a shop
whereas he was only a window dresser. Bad show for both.
The Captain and the Chief Engineer are the only officers who mix socially with
the passengers. The captain seems rather a melancholy type with, I should say, no
sense of humour. He speaks fair English with an American accent. He tells me that he
was on the San Francisco run during Prohibition years in America and saw many Film
Stars chiefly “under the influence” as they used to flock on board to drink. The Chief
Engineer is big and fat and cheerful. His English is anything but fluent but he makes up
for it in mime.
I visited the relations and friends at Port Elizabeth and East London, and here at
Durban. I stayed with the Trotters and Swans and enjoyed myself very much at both
places. I have collected numerous wedding presents, china and cutlery, coffee
percolator and ornaments, and where I shall pack all these things I don’t know. Everyone has been terribly kind and I feel extremely well and happy.
At the start of the voyage I had a bit of bad luck. You will remember that a
perfectly foul South Easter was blowing. Some men were busy working on a deck
engine and I stopped to watch and a tiny fragment of steel blew into my eye. There is
no doctor on board so the stewardess put some oil into the eye and bandaged it up.
The eye grew more and more painful and inflamed and when when we reached Port
Elizabeth the Captain asked the Port Doctor to look at it. The Doctor said it was a job for
an eye specialist and telephoned from the ship to make an appointment. Luckily for me,
Vincent Tofts turned up at the ship just then and took me off to the specialist and waited
whilst he extracted the fragment with a giant magnet. The specialist said that I was very
lucky as the thing just missed the pupil of my eye so my sight will not be affected. I was
temporarily blinded by the Belladona the eye-man put in my eye so he fitted me with a
pair of black goggles and Vincent escorted me back to the ship. Don’t worry the eye is
now as good as ever and George will not have to take a one-eyed bride for better or
I have one worry and that is that the ship is going to be very much overdue by
the time we reach Dar es Salaam. She is taking on a big wool cargo and we were held
up for three days in East london and have been here in Durban for five days.
Today is the ninth Anniversary of the Fascist Movement and the ship was
dressed with bunting and flags. I must now go and dress for the gala dinner.
Bless you all,
S.S.Timavo. 6th. November 1930
Nearly there now. We called in at Lourenco Marques, Beira, Mozambique and
Port Amelia. I was the only one of the original passengers left after Durban but there we
took on a Mrs Croxford and her mother and two men passengers. Mrs C must have
something, certainly not looks. She has a flat figure, heavily mascared eyes and crooked
mouth thickly coated with lipstick. But her rather sweet old mother-black-pearls-type tells
me they are worn out travelling around the world trying to shake off an admirer who
pursues Mrs C everywhere.
The one male passenger is very quiet and pleasant. The old lady tells me that he
has recently lost his wife. The other passenger is a horribly bumptious type.
I had my hair beautifully shingled at Lourenco Marques, but what an experience it
was. Before we docked I asked the Captain whether he knew of a hairdresser, but he
said he did not and would have to ask the agent when he came aboard. The agent was
a very suave Asian. He said “Sure he did” and offered to take me in his car. I rather
doubtfully agreed — such a swarthy gentleman — and was driven, not to a hairdressing
establishment, but to his office. Then he spoke to someone on the telephone and in no
time at all a most dago-y type arrived carrying a little black bag. He was all patent
leather, hair, and flashing smile, and greeted me like an old and valued friend.
Before I had collected my scattered wits tthe Agent had flung open a door and
ushered me through, and I found myself seated before an ornate mirror in what was only
too obviously a bedroom. It was a bedroom with a difference though. The unmade bed
had no legs but hung from the ceiling on brass chains.
The agent beamingly shut the door behind him and I was left with my imagination
and the afore mentioned oily hairdresser. He however was very business like. Before I
could say knife he had shingled my hair with a cut throat razor and then, before I could
protest, had smothered my neck in stinking pink powder applied with an enormous and
filthy swansdown powder puff. He held up a mirror for me to admire his handiwork but I
was aware only of the enormous bed reflected in it, and hurriedly murmuring “very nice,
very nice” I made my escape to the outer office where, to my relief, I found the Chief
Engineer who escorted me back to the ship.
In the afternoon Mrs Coxford and the old lady and I hired a taxi and went to the
Polana Hotel for tea. Very swish but I like our Cape Peninsula beaches better.
At Lorenco Marques we took on more passengers. The Governor of
Portuguese Nyasaland and his wife and baby son. He was a large middle aged man,
very friendly and unassuming and spoke perfect English. His wife was German and
exquisite, as fragile looking and with the delicate colouring of a Dresden figurine. She
looked about 18 but she told me she was 28 and showed me photographs of two
other sons – hefty youngsters, whom she had left behind in Portugal and was missing
It was frightfully hot at Beira and as I had no money left I did not go up to the
town, but Mrs Croxford and I spent a pleasant hour on the beach under the Casurina
The Governor and his wife left the ship at Mozambique. He looked very
imposing in his starched uniform and she more Dresden Sheperdish than ever in a
flowered frock. There was a guard of honour and all the trimmings. They bade me a warm farewell and invited George and me to stay at any time.
The German ship “Watussi” was anchored in the Bay and I decided to visit her
and try and have my hair washed and set. I had no sooner stepped on board when a
lady came up to me and said “Surely you are Beeba Leslie.” It was Mrs Egan and she
had Molly with her. Considering Mrs Egan had not seen me since I was five I think it was
jolly clever of her to recognise me. Molly is charming and was most friendly. She fixed
things with the hairdresser and sat with me until the job was done. Afterwards I had tea
Port Amelia was our last stop. In fact the only person to go ashore was Mr
Taylor, the unpleasant man, and he returned at sunset very drunk indeed.
We reached Port Amelia on the 3rd – my birthday. The boat had anchored by
the time I was dressed and when I went on deck I saw several row boats cluttered
around the gangway and in them were natives with cages of wild birds for sale. Such tiny
crowded cages. I was furious, you know me. I bought three cages, carried them out on
to the open deck and released the birds. I expected them to fly to the land but they flew
straight up into the rigging.
The quiet male passenger wandered up and asked me what I was doing. I said
“I’m giving myself a birthday treat, I hate to see caged birds.” So next thing there he
was buying birds which he presented to me with “Happy Birthday.” I gladly set those
birds free too and they joined the others in the rigging.
Then a grinning steward came up with three more cages. “For the lady with
compliments of the Captain.” They lost no time in joining their friends.
It had given me so much pleasure to free the birds that I was only a little
discouraged when the quiet man said thoughtfully “This should encourage those bird
catchers you know, they are sold out. When evening came and we were due to sail I
was sure those birds would fly home, but no, they are still there and they will probably
remain until we dock at Dar es Salaam.
During the morning the Captain came up and asked me what my Christian name
is. He looked as grave as ever and I couldn’t think why it should interest him but said “the
name is Eleanor.” That night at dinner there was a large iced cake in the centre of the
table with “HELENA” in a delicate wreath of pink icing roses on the top. We had
champagne and everyone congratulated me and wished me good luck in my marriage.
A very nice gesture don’t you think. The unpleasant character had not put in an
appearance at dinner which made the party all the nicer
I sat up rather late in the lounge reading a book and by the time I went to bed
there was not a soul around. I bathed and changed into my nighty,walked into my cabin,
shed my dressing gown, and pottered around. When I was ready for bed I put out my
hand to draw the curtains back and a hand grasped my wrist. It was that wretched
creature outside my window on the deck, still very drunk. Luckily I was wearing that
heavy lilac silk nighty. I was livid. “Let go at once”, I said, but he only grinned stupidly.
“I’m not hurting you” he said, “only looking”. “I’ll ring for the steward” said I, and by
stretching I managed to press the bell with my free hand. I rang and rang but no one
came and he just giggled. Then I said furiously, “Remember this name, George
Rushby, he is a fine boxer and he hates specimens like you. When he meets me at Dar
es Salaam I shall tell him about this and I bet you will be sorry.” However he still held on
so I turned and knocked hard on the adjoining wall which divided my cabin from Mrs
Croxfords. Soon Mrs Croxford and the old lady appeared in dressing gowns . This
seemed to amuse the drunk even more though he let go my wrist. So whilst the old
lady stayed with me, Mrs C fetched the quiet passenger who soon hustled him off. He has kept out of my way ever since. However I still mean to tell George because I feel
the fellow got off far too lightly. I reported the matter to the Captain but he just remarked
that he always knew the man was low class because he never wears a jacket to meals.
This is my last night on board and we again had free champagne and I was given
some tooled leather work by the Captain and a pair of good paste earrings by the old
lady. I have invited them and Mrs Croxford, the Chief Engineer, and the quiet
passenger to the wedding.
This may be my last night as Eleanor Leslie and I have spent this long while
writing to you just as a little token of my affection and gratitude for all the years of your
love and care. I shall post this letter on the ship and must turn now and get some beauty
sleep. We have been told that we shall be in Dar es Salaam by 9 am. I am so excited
that I shall not sleep.
Very much love, and just for fun I’ll sign my full name for the last time.
with my “bes respeks”,
Eleanor and George Rushby:
Splendid Hotel, Dar es Salaam 11th November 1930
I’m writing this in the bedroom whilst George is out buying a tin trunk in which to
pack all our wedding presents. I expect he will be gone a long time because he has
gone out with Hicky Wood and, though our wedding was four days ago, it’s still an
excuse for a party. People are all very cheery and friendly here.
I am wearing only pants and slip but am still hot. One swelters here in the
mornings, but a fresh sea breeze blows in the late afternoons and then Dar es Salaam is
We arrived in Dar es Salaam harbour very early on Friday morning (7 th Nov).
The previous night the Captain had said we might not reach Dar. until 9 am, and certainly
no one would be allowed on board before 8 am. So I dawdled on the deck in my
dressing gown and watched the green coastline and the islands slipping by. I stood on
the deck outside my cabin and was not aware that I was looking out at the wrong side of
the landlocked harbour. Quite unknown to me George and some friends, the Hickson
Woods, were standing on the Gymkhana Beach on the opposite side of the channel
anxiously scanning the ship for a sign of me. George says he had a horrible idea I had
missed the ship. Blissfully unconscious of his anxiety I wandered into the bathroom
prepared for a good soak. The anchor went down when I was in the bath and suddenly
there was a sharp wrap on the door and I heard Mrs Croxford say “There’s a man in a
boat outside. He is looking out for someone and I’m sure it’s your George. I flung on
some clothes and rushed on deck with tousled hair and bare feet and it was George.
We had a marvellous reunion. George was wearing shorts and bush shirt and
looked just like the strong silent types one reads about in novels. I finished dressing then
George helped me bundle all the wedding presents I had collected en route into my
travelling rug and we went into the bar lounge to join the Hickson Woods. They are the
couple from whom George bought the land which is to be our coffee farm Hicky-Wood
was laughing when we joined them. he said he had called a chap to bring a couple of
beers thinking he was the steward but it turned out to be the Captain. He does wear
such a very plain uniform that I suppose it was easy to make the mistake, but Hicky
says he was not amused.
Anyway as the H-W’s are to be our neighbours I’d better describe them. Kath
Wood is very attractive, dark Irish, with curly black hair and big brown eyes. She was
married before to Viv Lumb a great friend of George’s who died some years ago of
blackwater fever. They had one little girl, Maureen, and Kath and Hicky have a small son
of three called Michael. Hicky is slightly below average height and very neat and dapper
though well built. He is a great one for a party and good fun but George says he can be
Anyway we all filed off the ship and Hicky and Cath went on to the hotel whilst
George and I went through customs. Passing the customs was easy. Everyone
seemed to know George and that it was his wedding day and I just sailed through,
except for the little matter of the rug coming undone when George and I had to scramble
on the floor for candlesticks and fruit knives and a wooden nut bowl.
Outside the customs shed we were mobbed by a crowd of jabbering Africans
offering their services as porters, and soon my luggage was piled in one rickshaw whilst
George and I climbed into another and we were born smoothly away on rubber shod
wheels to the Splendid Hotel. The motion was pleasing enough but it seemed weird to
be pulled along by one human being whilst another pushed behind. We turned up a street called Acacia Avenue which, as its name implies, is lined
with flamboyant acacia trees now in the full glory of scarlet and gold. The rickshaw
stopped before the Splendid Hotel and I was taken upstairs into a pleasant room which
had its own private balcony overlooking the busy street.
Here George broke the news that we were to be married in less than an hours
time. He would have to dash off and change and then go straight to the church. I would
be quite all right, Kath would be looking in and friends would fetch me.
I started to dress and soon there was a tap at the door and Mrs Hickson-Wood
came in with my bouquet. It was a lovely bunch of carnations and frangipani with lots of
asparagus fern and it went well with my primrose yellow frock. She admired my frock
and Leghorn hat and told me that her little girl Maureen was to be my flower girl. Then
she too left for the church.
I was fully dressed when there was another knock on the door and I opened it to
be confronted by a Police Officer in a starched white uniform. I’m McCallum”, he said,
“I’ve come to drive you to the church.” Downstairs he introduced me to a big man in a
tussore silk suit. “This is Dr Shicore”, said McCallum, “He is going to give you away.”
Honestly, I felt exactly like Alice in Wonderland. Wouldn’t have been at all surprised if
the White Rabbit had popped up and said he was going to be my page.
I walked out of the hotel and across the pavement in a dream and there, by the
curb, was a big dark blue police car decorated with white ribbons and with a tall African
Police Ascari holding the door open for me. I had hardly time to wonder what next when
the car drew up before a tall German looking church. It was in fact the Lutheran Church in
the days when Tanganyika was German East Africa.
Mrs Hickson-Wood, very smart in mushroom coloured georgette and lace, and
her small daughter were waiting in the porch, so in we went. I was glad to notice my
friends from the boat sitting behind George’s friends who were all complete strangers to
me. The aisle seemed very long but at last I reached George waiting in the chancel with
Hicky-Wood, looking unfamiliar in a smart tussore suit. However this feeling of unreality
passed when he turned his head and smiled at me.
In the vestry after the ceremony I was kissed affectionately by several complete
strangers and I felt happy and accepted by George’s friends. Outside the church,
standing apart from the rest of the guests, the Italian Captain and Chief Engineer were
waiting. They came up and kissed my hand, and murmured felicitations, but regretted
they could not spare the time to come to the reception. Really it was just as well
because they would not have fitted in at all well.
Dr Shircore is the Director of Medical Services and he had very kindly lent his
large house for the reception. It was quite a party. The guests were mainly men with a
small sprinkling of wives. Champagne corks popped and there was an enormous cake
and soon voices were raised in song. The chief one was ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’
and I shall remember it for ever.
The party was still in full swing when George and I left. The old lady from the ship
enjoyed it hugely. She came in an all black outfit with a corsage of artificial Lily-of-the-
Valley. Later I saw one of the men wearing the corsage in his buttonhole and the old
lady was wearing a carnation.
When George and I got back to the hotel,I found that my luggage had been
moved to George’s room by his cook Lamek, who was squatting on his haunches and
clapped his hands in greeting. My dears, you should see Lamek – exactly like a
chimpanzee – receding forehead, wide flat nose, and long lip, and such splayed feet. It was quite a strain not to laugh, especially when he produced a gift for me. I have not yet
discovered where he acquired it. It was a faded mauve straw toque of the kind worn by
Queen Mary. I asked George to tell Lamek that I was touched by his generosity but felt
that I could not accept his gift. He did not mind at all especially as George gave him a
generous tip there and then.
I changed into a cotton frock and shady straw hat and George changed into shorts
and bush shirt once more. We then sneaked into the dining room for lunch avoiding our
wedding guests who were carrying on the party in the lounge.
After lunch we rejoined them and they all came down to the jetty to wave goodbye
as we set out by motor launch for Honeymoon Island. I enjoyed the launch trip very
much. The sea was calm and very blue and the palm fringed beaches of Dar es Salaam
are as romantic as any bride could wish. There are small coral islands dotted around the
Bay of which Honeymoon Island is the loveliest. I believe at one time it bore the less
romantic name of Quarantine Island. Near the Island, in the shallows, the sea is brilliant
green and I saw two pink jellyfish drifting by.
There is no jetty on the island so the boat was stopped in shallow water and
George carried me ashore. I was enchanted with the Island and in no hurry to go to the
bungalow, so George and I took our bathing costumes from our suitcases and sent the
luggage up to the house together with a box of provisions.
We bathed and lazed on the beach and suddenly it was sunset and it began to
get dark. We walked up the beach to the bungalow and began to unpack the stores,
tea, sugar, condensed milk, bread and butter, sardines and a large tin of ham. There
were also cups and saucers and plates and cutlery.
We decided to have an early meal and George called out to the caretaker, “Boy
letta chai”. Thereupon the ‘boy’ materialised and jabbered to George in Ki-Swaheli. It
appeared he had no utensil in which to boil water. George, ever resourceful, removed
the ham from the tin and gave him that. We had our tea all right but next day the ham
Then came bed time. I took a hurricane lamp in one hand and my suitcase in the
other and wandered into the bedroom whilst George vanished into the bathroom. To
my astonishment I saw two perfectly bare iron bedsteads – no mattress or pillows. We
had brought sheets and mosquito nets but, believe me, they are a poor substitute for a
Anyway I arrayed myself in my pale yellow satin nightie and sat gingerly down
on the iron edge of the bed to await my groom who eventually appeared in a
handsome suit of silk pyjamas. His expression, as he took in the situation, was too much
for me and I burst out laughing and so did he.
Somewhere in the small hours I woke up. The breeze had dropped and the
room was unbearably stuffy. I felt as dry as a bone. The lamp had been turned very
low and had gone out, but I remembered seeing a water tank in the yard and I decided
to go out in the dark and drink from the tap. In the dark I could not find my slippers so I
slipped my feet into George’s shoes, picked up his matches and groped my way out
of the room. I found the tank all right and with one hand on the tap and one cupped for
water I stooped to drink. Just then I heard a scratchy noise and sensed movements
around my feet. I struck a match and oh horrors! found that the damp spot on which I was
standing was alive with white crabs. In my hurry to escape I took a clumsy step, put
George’s big toe on the hem of my nightie and down I went on top of the crabs. I need
hardly say that George was awakened by an appalling shriek and came rushing to my
aid like a knight of old. Anyway, alarms and excursions not withstanding, we had a wonderful weekend on the island and I was sorry to return to the heat of Dar es Salaam, though the evenings
here are lovely and it is heavenly driving along the coast road by car or in a rickshaw.
I was surprised to find so many Indians here. Most of the shops, large and small,
seem to be owned by Indians and the place teems with them. The women wear
colourful saris and their hair in long black plaits reaching to their waists. Many wear baggy
trousers of silk or satin. They give a carnival air to the sea front towards sunset.
This long letter has been written in instalments throughout the day. My first break
was when I heard the sound of a band and rushed to the balcony in time to see The
Kings African Rifles band and Askaris march down the Avenue on their way to an
Armistice Memorial Service. They looked magnificent.
I must end on a note of most primitive pride. George returned from his shopping
expedition and beamingly informed me that he had thrashed the man who annoyed me
on the ship. I felt extremely delighted and pressed for details. George told me that
when he went out shopping he noticed to his surprise that the ‘Timavo” was still in the
harbour. He went across to the Agents office and there saw a man who answered to the
description I had given. George said to him “Is your name Taylor?”, and when he said
“yes”, George said “Well my name is George Rushby”, whereupon he hit Taylor on the
jaw so that he sailed over the counter and down the other side. Very satisfactory, I feel.
With much love to all.
Your cave woman
Mchewe Estate. P.O. Mbeya 22 November 1930
Well here we are at our Country Seat, Mchewe Estate. (pronounced
Mn,-che’-we) but I will start at the beginning of our journey and describe the farm later.
We left the hotel at Dar es Salaam for the station in a taxi crowded with baggage
and at the last moment Keith Wood ran out with the unwrapped bottom layer of our
wedding cake. It remained in its naked state from there to here travelling for two days in
the train on the luggage rack, four days in the car on my knee, reposing at night on the
roof of the car exposed to the winds of Heaven, and now rests beside me in the tent
looking like an old old tombstone. We have no tin large enough to hold it and one
simply can’t throw away ones wedding cake so, as George does not eat cake, I can see
myself eating wedding cake for tea for months to come, ants permitting.
We travelled up by train from Dar to Dodoma, first through the lush vegetation of
the coastal belt to Morogoro, then through sisal plantations now very overgrown with
weeds owing to the slump in prices, and then on to the arid area around Dodoma. This
part of the country is very dry at this time of the year and not unlike parts of our Karoo.
The train journey was comfortable enough but slow as the engines here are fed with
wood and not coal as in South Africa.
Dodoma is the nearest point on the railway to Mbeya so we left the train there to
continue our journey by road. We arrived at the one and only hotel in the early hours and
whilst someone went to rout out the night watchman the rest of us sat on the dismal
verandah amongst a litter of broken glass. Some bright spark remarked on the obvious –
that there had been a party the night before.
When we were shown to a room I thought I rather preferred the verandah,
because the beds had not yet been made up and there was a bucket of vomit beside
the old fashioned washstand. However George soon got the boys to clean up the
room and I fell asleep to be awakened by George with an invitation to come and see
our car before breakfast.
Yes, we have our own car. It is a Chev, with what is called a box body. That
means that sides, roof and doors are made by a local Indian carpenter. There is just the
one front seat with a kapok mattress on it. The tools are kept in a sort of cupboard fixed
to the side so there is a big space for carrying “safari kit” behind the cab seat.
Lamek, who had travelled up on the same train, appeared after breakfast, and
helped George to pack all our luggage into the back of the car. Besides our suitcases
there was a huge bedroll, kitchen utensils and a box of provisions, tins of petrol and
water and all Lamek’s bits and pieces which included three chickens in a wicker cage and
an enormous bunch of bananas about 3 ft long.
When all theses things were packed there remained only a small space between
goods and ceiling and into this Lamek squeezed. He lay on his back with his horny feet a
mere inch or so from the back of my head. In this way we travelled 400 miles over
bumpy earth roads and crude pole bridges, but whenever we stopped for a meal
Lamek wriggled out and, like Aladdin’s genie, produced good meals in no time at all.
In the afternoon we reached a large river called the Ruaha. Workmen were busy
building a large bridge across it but it is not yet ready so we crossed by a ford below
the bridge. George told me that the river was full of crocodiles but though I looked hard, I
did not see any. This is also elephant country but I did not see any of those either, only
piles of droppings on the road. I must tell you that the natives around these parts are called Wahehe and the river is Ruaha – enough to make a cat laugh. We saw some Wahehe out hunting with spears
and bows and arrows. They live in long low houses with the tiniest shuttered windows
and rounded roofs covered with earth.
Near the river we also saw a few Masai herding cattle. They are rather terrifying to
look at – tall, angular, and very aloof. They wear nothing but a blanket knotted on one
shoulder, concealing nothing, and all carried one or two spears.
The road climbs steeply on the far side of the Ruaha and one has the most
tremendous views over the plains. We spent our first night up there in the high country.
Everything was taken out of the car, the bed roll opened up and George and I slept
comfortably in the back of the car whilst Lamek, rolled in a blanket, slept soundly by a
small fire nearby. Next morning we reached our first township, Iringa, and put up at the
Colonist Hotel. We had a comfortable room in the annex overlooking the golf course.
our room had its own little dressing room which was also the bathroom because, when
ordered to do so, the room boy carried in an oval galvanised bath and filled it with hot
water which he carried in a four gallon petrol tin.
When we crossed to the main building for lunch, George was immediately hailed
by several men who wanted to meet the bride. I was paid some handsome
compliments but was not sure whether they were sincere or the result of a nice alcoholic
glow. Anyhow every one was very friendly.
After lunch I went back to the bedroom leaving George chatting away. I waited and
waited – no George. I got awfully tired of waiting and thought I’d give him a fright so I
walked out onto the deserted golf course and hid behind some large boulders. Soon I
saw George returning to the room and the boy followed with a tea tray. Ah, now the hue
and cry will start, thought I, but no, no George appeared nor could I hear any despairing
cry. When sunset came I trailed crossly back to our hotel room where George lay
innocently asleep on his bed, hands folded on his chest like a crusader on his tomb. In a
moment he opened his eyes, smiled sleepily and said kindly, “Did you have a nice walk
my love?” So of course I couldn’t play the neglected wife as he obviously didn’t think
me one and we had a very pleasant dinner and party in the hotel that evening.
Next day we continued our journey but turned aside to visit the farm of a sprightly
old man named St.Leger Seaton whom George had known for many years, so it was
after dark before George decided that we had covered our quota of miles for the day.
Whilst he and Lamek unpacked I wandered off to a stream to cool my hot feet which had
baked all day on the floor boards of the car. In the rather dim moonlight I sat down on the
grassy bank and gratefully dabbled my feet in the cold water. A few minutes later I
started up with a shriek – I had the sensation of red hot pins being dug into all my most
sensitive parts. I started clawing my clothes off and, by the time George came to the
rescue with the lamp, I was practically in the nude. “Only Siafu ants,” said George calmly.
Take off all your clothes and get right in the water.” So I had a bathe whilst George
picked the ants off my clothes by the light of the lamp turned very low for modesty’s
sake. Siafu ants are beastly things. They are black ants with outsized heads and
pinchers. I shall be very, very careful where I sit in future.
The next day was even hotter. There was no great variety in the scenery. Most
of the country was covered by a tree called Miombo, which is very ordinary when the
foliage is a mature deep green, but when in new leaf the trees look absolutely beautiful
as the leaves,surprisingly, are soft pastel shades of red and yellow.
Once again we turned aside from the main road to visit one of George’s friends.
This man Major Hugh Jones MC, has a farm only a few miles from ours but just now he is supervising the making of an airstrip. Major Jones is quite a character. He is below
average height and skinny with an almost bald head and one nearly blind eye into which
he screws a monocle. He is a cultured person and will, I am sure, make an interesting
neighbour. George and Major Jones’ friends call him ‘Joni’ but he is generally known in
this country as ‘Ropesoles’ – as he is partial to that type of footwear.
We passed through Mbeya township after dark so I have no idea what the place
is like. The last 100 miles of our journey was very dusty and the last 15 miles extremely
bumpy. The road is used so little that in some places we had to plow our way through
long grass and I was delighted when at last George turned into a side road and said
“This is our place.” We drove along the bank of the Mchewe River, then up a hill and
stopped at a tent which was pitched beside the half built walls of our new home. We
were expected so there was hot water for baths and after a supper of tinned food and
good hot tea, I climbed thankfully into bed.
Next morning I was awakened by the chattering of the African workmen and was
soon out to inspect the new surroundings. Our farm was once part of Hickson Wood’s
land and is separated from theirs by a river. Our houses cannot be more than a few
hundred yards apart as the crow flies but as both are built on the slopes of a long range
of high hills, and one can only cross the river at the foot of the slopes, it will be quite a
safari to go visiting on foot . Most of our land is covered with shoulder high grass but it
has been partly cleared of trees and scrub. Down by the river George has made a long
coffee nursery and a large vegetable garden but both coffee and vegetable seedlings
are too small to be of use.
George has spared all the trees that will make good shade for the coffee later on.
There are several huge wild fig trees as big as oaks but with smooth silvery-green trunks
and branches and there are lots of acacia thorn trees with flat tops like Japanese sun
shades. I’ve seen lovely birds in the fig trees, Louries with bright plumage and crested
heads, and Blue Rollers, and in the grasslands there are widow birds with incredibly long
black tail feathers.
There are monkeys too and horrible but fascinating tree lizards with blue bodies
and orange heads. There are so many, many things to tell you but they must wait for
another time as James, the house boy, has been to say “Bafu tiari” and if I don’t go at
once, the bath will be cold.
I am very very happy and terribly interested in this new life so please don’t
worry about me.
Much love to you all,
Mchewe Estate 29th. November 1930
I’ve lots of time to write letters just now because George is busy supervising the
building of the house from early morning to late afternoon – with a break for lunch of
On our second day here our tent was moved from the house site to a small
clearing further down the slope of our hill. Next to it the labourers built a ‘banda’ , which is
a three sided grass hut with thatched roof – much cooler than the tent in this weather.
There is also a little grass lav. so you see we have every convenience. I spend most of
my day in the banda reading or writing letters. Occasionally I wander up to the house site
and watch the building, but mostly I just sit.
I did try exploring once. I wandered down a narrow path towards the river. I
thought I might paddle and explore the river a little but I came round a bend and there,
facing me, was a crocodile. At least for a moment I thought it was and my adrenaline
glands got very busy indeed. But it was only an enormous monitor lizard, four or five
feet long. It must have been as scared as I was because it turned and rushed off through
the grass. I turned and walked hastily back to the camp and as I passed the house site I
saw some boys killing a large puff adder. Now I do my walking in the evenings with
George. Nothing alarming ever seems to happen when he is around.
It is interesting to watch the boys making bricks for the house. They make a pile
of mud which they trample with their feet until it is the right consistency. Then they fill
wooden moulds with the clayey mud, and press it down well and turn out beautiful shiny,
dark brown bricks which are laid out in rows and covered with grass to bake slowly in the
Most of the materials for the building are right here at hand. The walls will be sun
dried bricks and there is a white clay which will make a good whitewash for the inside
walls. The chimney and walls will be of burnt brick and tiles and George is now busy
building a kiln for this purpose. Poles for the roof are being cut in the hills behind the
house and every day women come along with large bundles of thatching grass on their
heads. Our windows are modern steel casement ones and the doors have been made
at a mission in the district. George does some of the bricklaying himself. The other
bricklayer is an African from Northern Rhodesia called Pedro. It makes me perspire just
to look at Pedro who wears an overcoat all day in the very hot sun.
Lamek continues to please. He turns out excellent meals, chicken soup followed
by roast chicken, vegetables from the Hickson-Woods garden and a steamed pudding
or fruit to wind up the meal. I enjoy the chicken but George is fed up with it and longs for
good red meat. The chickens are only about as large as a partridge but then they cost
only sixpence each.
I had my first visit to Mbeya two days ago. I put on my very best trousseau frock
for the occasion- that yellow striped silk one – and wore my wedding hat. George didn’t
comment, but I saw later that I was dreadfully overdressed.
Mbeya at the moment is a very small settlement consisting of a bundle of small
Indian shops – Dukas they call them, which stock European tinned foods and native soft
goods which seem to be mainly of Japanese origin. There is a one storied Government
office called the Boma and two attractive gabled houses of burnt brick which house the
District Officer and his Assistant. Both these houses have lovely gardens but i saw them
only from the outside as we did not call. After buying our stores George said “Lets go to the pub, I want you to meet Mrs Menzies.” Well the pub turned out to be just three or four grass rondavels on a bare
plot. The proprietor, Ken Menzies, came out to welcome us. I took to him at once
because he has the same bush sandy eyebrows as you have Dad. He told me that
unfortunately his wife is away at the coast, and then he ushered me through the door
saying “Here’s George with his bride.” then followed the Iringa welcome all over again,
only more so, because the room was full of diggers from the Lupa Goldfields about fifty
Champagne corks popped as I shook hands all around and George was
clapped on the back. I could see he was a favourite with everyone and I tried not to be
gauche and let him down. These men were all most kind and most appeared to be men
of more than average education. However several were unshaven and looked as
though they had slept in their clothes as I suppose they had. When they have a little luck
on the diggings they come in here to Menzies pub and spend the lot. George says
they bring their gold dust and small nuggets in tobacco tins or Kruschen salts jars and
hand them over to Ken Menzies saying “Tell me when I’ve spent the lot.” Ken then
weighs the gold and estimates its value and does exactly what the digger wants.
However the Diggers get good value for their money because besides the drink
they get companionship and good food and nursing if they need it. Mrs Menzies is a
trained nurse and most kind and capable from what I was told. There is no doctor or
hospital here so her experience as a nursing sister is invaluable.
We had lunch at the Hotel and afterwards I poured tea as I was the only female
present. Once the shyness had worn off I rather enjoyed myself.
Now to end off I must tell you a funny story of how I found out that George likes
his women to be feminine. You will remember those dashing black silk pyjamas Aunt
Mary gave me, with flowered “happy coat” to match. Well last night I thought I’d give
George a treat and when the boy called me for my bath I left George in the ‘banda’
reading the London Times. After my bath I put on my Japanese pyjamas and coat,
peered into the shaving mirror which hangs from the tent pole and brushed my hair until it
shone. I must confess that with my fringe and shingled hair I thought I made quite a
glamourous Japanese girl. I walked coyly across to the ‘banda’. Alas no compliment.
George just glanced up from the Times and went on reading.
He was away rather a long time when it came to his turn to bath. I glanced up
when he came back and had a slight concussion. George, if you please, was arrayed in
my very best pale yellow satin nightie. The one with the lace and ribbon sash and little
bows on the shoulder. I knew exactly what he meant to convey. I was not to wear the
trousers in the family. I seethed inwardly, but pretending not to notice, I said calmly “shall
I call for food?” In this garb George sat down to dinner and it says a great deal for African
phlegm that the boy did not drop the dishes.
We conversed politely about this and that, and then, as usual, George went off
to bed. I appeared to be engrossed in my book and did not stir. When I went to the
tent some time later George lay fast asleep still in my nightie, though all I could see of it
was the little ribbon bows looking farcically out of place on his broad shoulders.
This morning neither of us mentioned the incident, George was up and dressed
by the time I woke up but I have been smiling all day to think what a ridiculous picture
we made at dinner. So farewell to pyjamas and hey for ribbons and bows.
Mchewe Estate. Mbeya. 8th December 1930
A mere shadow of her former buxom self lifts a languid pen to write to you. I’m
convalescing after my first and I hope my last attack of malaria. It was a beastly
experience but all is now well and I am eating like a horse and will soon regain my
I took ill on the evening of the day I wrote my last letter to you. It started with a
splitting headache and fits of shivering. The symptoms were all too familiar to George
who got me into bed and filled me up with quinine. He then piled on all the available
blankets and packed me in hot water bottles. I thought I’d explode and said so and
George said just to lie still and I’d soon break into a good sweat. However nothing of the
kind happened and next day my temperature was 105 degrees. Instead of feeling
miserable as I had done at the onset, I now felt very merry and most chatty. George
now tells me I sang the most bawdy songs but I hardly think it likely. Do you?
You cannot imagine how tenderly George nursed me, not only that day but
throughout the whole eight days I was ill. As we do not employ any African house
women, and there are no white women in the neighbourhood at present to whom we
could appeal for help, George had to do everything for me. It was unbearably hot in the
tent so George decided to move me across to the Hickson-Woods vacant house. They
have not yet returned from the coast.
George decided I was too weak to make the trip in the car so he sent a
messenger over to the Woods’ house for their Machila. A Machila is a canopied canvas
hammock slung from a bamboo pole and carried by four bearers. The Machila duly
arrived and I attempted to walk to it, clinging to George’s arm, but collapsed in a faint so
the trip was postponed to the next morning when I felt rather better. Being carried by
Machila is quite pleasant but I was in no shape to enjoy anything and got thankfully into
bed in the Hickson-Woods large, cool and rather dark bedroom. My condition did not
improve and George decided to send a runner for the Government Doctor at Tukuyu
about 60 miles away. Two days later Dr Theis arrived by car and gave me two
injections of quinine which reduced the fever. However I still felt very weak and had to
spend a further four days in bed.
We have now decided to stay on here until the Hickson-Woods return by which
time our own house should be ready. George goes off each morning and does not
return until late afternoon. However don’t think “poor Eleanor” because I am very
comfortable here and there are lots of books to read and the days seem to pass very
The Hickson-Wood’s house was built by Major Jones and I believe the one on
his shamba is just like it. It is a square red brick building with a wide verandah all around
and, rather astonishingly, a conical thatched roof. There is a beautiful view from the front
of the house and a nice flower garden. The coffee shamba is lower down on the hill.
Mrs Wood’s first husband, George’s friend Vi Lumb, is buried in the flower
garden. He died of blackwater fever about five years ago. I’m told that before her
second marriage Kath lived here alone with her little daughter, Maureen, and ran the farm
entirely on her own. She must be quite a person. I bet she didn’t go and get malaria
within a few weeks of her marriage.
The native tribe around here are called Wasafwa. They are pretty primitive but
seem amiable people. Most of the men, when they start work, wear nothing but some
kind of sheet of unbleached calico wrapped round their waists and hanging to mid calf. As soon as they have drawn their wages they go off to a duka and buy a pair of khaki
shorts for five or six shillings. Their women folk wear very short beaded skirts. I think the
base is goat skin but have never got close enough for a good look. They are very shy.
I hear from George that they have started on the roof of our house but I have not
seen it myself since the day I was carried here by Machila. My letters by the way go to
the Post Office by runner. George’s farm labourers take it in turn to act in this capacity.
The mail bag is given to them on Friday afternoon and by Saturday evening they are
back with our very welcome mail.
Very much love,
Mbeya 23rd December 1930
George drove to Mbeya for stores last week and met Col. Sherwood-Kelly VC.
who has been sent by the Government to Mbeya as Game Ranger. His job will be to
protect native crops from raiding elephants and hippo etc., and to protect game from
poachers. He has had no training for this so he has asked George to go with him on his
first elephant safari to show him the ropes.
George likes Col. Kelly and was quite willing to go on safari but not willing to
leave me alone on the farm as I am still rather shaky after malaria. So it was arranged that
I should go to Mbeya and stay with Mrs Harmer, the wife of the newly appointed Lands
and Mines Officer, whose husband was away on safari.
So here I am in Mbeya staying in the Harmers temporary wattle and daub
house. Unfortunately I had a relapse of the malaria and stayed in bed for three days with
a temperature. Poor Mrs Harmer had her hands full because in the room next to mine
she was nursing a digger with blackwater fever. I could hear his delirious babble through
the thin wall – very distressing. He died poor fellow , and leaves a wife and seven
I feel better than I have done for weeks and this afternoon I walked down to the
store. There are great signs of activity and people say that Mbeya will grow rapidly now
owing to the boom on the gold fields and also to the fact that a large aerodrome is to be
built here. Mbeya is to be a night stop on the proposed air service between England
and South Africa. I seem to be the last of the pioneers. If all these schemes come about
Mbeya will become quite suburban.
26th December 1930
George, Col. Kelly and Mr Harmer all returned to Mbeya on Christmas Eve and
it was decided that we should stay and have midday Christmas dinner with the
Harmers. Col. Kelly and the Assistant District Commissioner came too and it was quite a
festive occasion, We left Mbeya in the early afternoon and had our evening meal here at
Hickson-Wood’s farm. I wore my wedding dress.
I went across to our house in the car this morning. George usually walks across to
save petrol which is very expensive here. He takes a short cut and wades through the
river. The distance by road is very much longer than the short cut. The men are now
thatching the roof of our cottage and it looks charming. It consists of a very large living
room-dinning room with a large inglenook fireplace at one end. The bedroom is a large
square room with a smaller verandah room adjoining it. There is a wide verandah in the
front, from which one has a glorious view over a wide valley to the Livingstone
Mountains on the horizon. Bathroom and storeroom are on the back verandah and the
kitchen is some distance behind the house to minimise the risk of fire.
You can imagine how much I am looking forward to moving in. We have some
furniture which was made by an Indian carpenter at Iringa, refrectory dining table and
chairs, some small tables and two armchairs and two cupboards and a meatsafe. Other
things like bookshelves and extra cupboards we will have to make ourselves. George
has also bought a portable gramophone and records which will be a boon.
We also have an Irish wolfhound puppy, a skinny little chap with enormous feet
who keeps me company all day whilst George is across at our farm working on the
Lots and lots of love,
Mchewe Estate 8th Jan 1931
Alas, I have lost my little companion. The Doctor called in here on Boxing night
and ran over and killed Paddy, our pup. It was not his fault but I was very distressed
about it and George has promised to try and get another pup from the same litter.
The Hickson-Woods returned home on the 29th December so we decided to
move across to our nearly finished house on the 1st January. Hicky Wood decided that
we needed something special to mark the occasion so he went off and killed a sucking
pig behind the kitchen. The piglet’s screams were terrible and I felt that I would not be
able to touch any dinner. Lamek cooked and served sucking pig up in the traditional way
but it was high and quite literally, it stank. Our first meal in our own home was not a
However next day all was forgotten and I had something useful to do. George
hung doors and I held the tools and I also planted rose cuttings I had brought from
Mbeya and sowed several boxes with seeds.
Dad asked me about the other farms in the area. I haven’t visited any but there
are five besides ours. One belongs to the Lutheran Mission at Utengule, a few miles
from here. The others all belong to British owners. Nearest to Mbeya, at the foot of a
very high peak which gives Mbeya its name, are two farms, one belonging to a South
African mining engineer named Griffiths, the other to I.G.Stewart who was an officer in the
Kings African Rifles. Stewart has a young woman called Queenie living with him. We are
some miles further along the range of hills and are some 23 miles from Mbeya by road.
The Mchewe River divides our land from the Hickson-Woods and beyond their farm is
All these people have been away from their farms for some time but have now
returned so we will have some neighbours in future. However although the houses are
not far apart as the crow flies, they are all built high in the foothills and it is impossible to
connect the houses because of the rivers and gorges in between. One has to drive right
down to the main road and then up again so I do not suppose we will go visiting very
often as the roads are very bumpy and eroded and petrol is so expensive that we all
save it for occasional trips to Mbeya.
The rains are on and George has started to plant out some coffee seedlings. The
rains here are strange. One can hear the rain coming as it moves like a curtain along the
range of hills. It comes suddenly, pours for a little while and passes on and the sun
I do like it here and I wish you could see or dear little home.
Mchewe Estate. 1st April 1931
Everything is now running very smoothly in our home. Lamek continues to
produce palatable meals and makes wonderful bread which he bakes in a four gallon
petrol tin as we have no stove yet. He puts wood coals on the brick floor of the kitchen,
lays the tin lengh-wise on the coals and heaps more on top. The bread tins are then put
in the petrol tin, which has one end cut away, and the open end is covered by a flat
piece of tin held in place by a brick. Cakes are also backed in this make-shift oven and I
have never known Lamek to have a failure yet.
Lamek has a helper, known as the ‘mpishi boy’ , who does most of the hard
work, cleans pots and pans and chops the firewood etc. Another of the mpishi boy’s
chores is to kill the two chickens we eat each day. The chickens run wild during the day
but are herded into a small chicken house at night. One of the kitchen boy’s first duties is
to let the chickens out first thing in the early morning. Some time after breakfast it dawns
on Lamek that he will need a chicken for lunch. he informs the kitchen boy who selects a
chicken and starts to chase it in which he is enthusiastically joined by our new Irish
wolfhound pup, Kelly. Together they race after the frantic fowl, over the flower beds and
around the house until finally the chicken collapses from sheer exhaustion. The kitchen
boy then hands it over to Lamek who murders it with the kitchen knife and then pops the
corpse into boiling water so the feathers can be stripped off with ease.
I pointed out in vain, that it would be far simpler if the doomed chickens were kept
in the chicken house in the mornings when the others were let out and also that the correct
way to pluck chickens is when they are dry. Lamek just smiled kindly and said that that
may be so in Europe but that his way is the African way and none of his previous
Memsahibs has complained.
My houseboy, named James, is clean and capable in the house and also a
good ‘dhobi’ or washboy. He takes the washing down to the river and probably
pounds it with stones, but I prefer not to look. The ironing is done with a charcoal iron
only we have no charcoal and he uses bits of wood from the kitchen fire but so far there
has not been a mishap.
It gets dark here soon after sunset and then George lights the oil lamps and we
have tea and toast in front of the log fire which burns brightly in our inglenook. This is my
favourite hour of the day. Later George goes for his bath. I have mine in the mornings
and we have dinner at half past eight. Then we talk a bit and read a bit and sometimes
play the gramophone. I expect it all sounds pretty unexciting but it doesn’t seem so to
Very much love,
Mchewe Estate 20th April 1931
It is still raining here and the countryside looks very lush and green, very different
from the Mbeya district I first knew, when plains and hills were covered in long brown
grass – very course stuff that grows shoulder high.
Most of the labourers are hill men and one can see little patches of cultivation in
the hills. Others live in small villages near by, each consisting of a cluster of thatched huts
and a few maize fields and perhaps a patch of bananas. We do not have labour lines on
the farm because our men all live within easy walking distance. Each worker has a labour
card with thirty little squares on it. One of these squares is crossed off for each days work
and when all thirty are marked in this way the labourer draws his pay and hies himself off
to the nearest small store and blows the lot. The card system is necessary because
these Africans are by no means slaves to work. They work only when they feel like it or
when someone in the family requires a new garment, or when they need a few shillings
to pay their annual tax. Their fields, chickens and goats provide them with the food they
need but they draw rations of maize meal beans and salt. Only our headman is on a
salary. His name is Thomas and he looks exactly like the statues of Julius Caesar, the
same bald head and muscular neck and sardonic expression. He comes from Northern
Rhodesia and is more intelligent than the locals.
We still live mainly on chickens. We have a boy whose job it is to scour the
countryside for reasonable fat ones. His name is Lucas and he is quite a character. He
has such long horse teeth that he does not seem able to close his mouth and wears a
perpetual amiable smile. He brings his chickens in beehive shaped wicker baskets
which are suspended on a pole which Lucas carries on his shoulder.
We buy our groceries in bulk from Mbeya, our vegetables come from our
garden by the river and our butter from Kath Wood. Our fresh milk we buy from the
natives. It is brought each morning by three little totos each carrying one bottle on his
shaven head. Did I tell you that the local Wasafwa file their teeth to points. These kids
grin at one with their little sharks teeth – quite an “all-ready-to-eat-you-with-my-dear” look.
A few nights ago a message arrived from Kath Wood to say that Queenie
Stewart was very ill and would George drive her across to the Doctor at Tukuyu. I
wanted George to wait until morning because it was pouring with rain, and the mountain
road to Tukuyu is tricky even in dry weather, but he said it is dangerous to delay with any
kind of fever in Africa and he would have to start at once. So off he drove in the rain and I
did not see him again until the following night.
George said that it had been a nightmare trip. Queenie had a high temperature
and it was lucky that Kath was able to go to attend to her. George needed all his
attention on the road which was officially closed to traffic, and very slippery, and in some
places badly eroded. In some places the decking of bridges had been removed and
George had to get out in the rain and replace it. As he had nothing with which to fasten
the decking to the runners it was a dangerous undertaking to cross the bridges especially
as the rivers are now in flood and flowing strongly. However they reached Tukuyu safely
and it was just as well they went because the Doctor diagnosed Queenies illness as
Spirillium Tick Fever which is a very nasty illness indeed.
Mchewe Estate. 20th May 1931
I’m feeling fit and very happy though a bit lonely sometimes because George
spends much of his time away in the hills cutting a furrow miles long to bring water to the
house and to the upper part of the shamba so that he will be able to irrigate the coffee
during the dry season.
It will be quite an engineering feat when it is done as George only has makeshift
surveying instruments. He has mounted an ordinary cheap spirit level on an old camera
tripod and has tacked two gramophone needles into the spirit level to give him a line.
The other day part of a bank gave way and practically buried two of George’s labourers
but they were quickly rescued and no harm was done. However he will not let them
work unless he is there to supervise.
I keep busy so that the days pass quickly enough. I am delighted with the
material you sent me for curtains and loose covers and have hired a hand sewing
machine from Pedro-of-the-overcoat and am rattling away all day. The machine is an
ancient German one and when I say rattle, I mean rattle. It is a most cumbersome, heavy
affair of I should say, the same vintage as George Stevenson’s Rocket locomotive.
Anyway it sews and I am pleased with my efforts. We made a couch ourselves out of a
native bed, a mattress and some planks but all this is hidden under the chintz cover and
it looks quite the genuine bought article. I have some diversions too. Small black faced
monkeys sit in the trees outside our bedroom window and they are most entertaining to
watch. They are very mischievous though. When I went out into the garden this morning
before breakfast I found that the monkeys had pulled up all my carnations. There they
lay, roots in the air and whether they will take again I don’t know.
I like the monkeys but hate the big mountain baboons that come and hang
around our chicken house. I am terrified that they will tear our pup into bits because he is
a plucky young thing and will rush out to bark at the baboons.
George usually returns for the weekends but last time he did not because he had
a touch of malaria. He sent a boy down for the mail and some fresh bread. Old Lucas
arrived with chickens just as the messenger was setting off with mail and bread in a
haversack on his back. I thought it might be a good idea to send a chicken to George so
I selected a spry young rooster which I handed to the messenger. He, however,
complained that he needed both hands for climbing. I then had one of my bright ideas
and, putting a layer of newspaper over the bread, I tucked the rooster into the haversack
and buckled down the flap so only his head protruded.
I thought no more about it until two days later when the messenger again
appeared for fresh bread. He brought a rather terse note from George saying that the
previous bread was uneatable as the rooster had eaten some of it and messed on the
rest. Ah me!
The previous weekend the Hickson-Woods, Stewarts and ourselves, went
across to Tukuyu to attend a dance at the club there. the dance was very pleasant. All
the men wore dinner jackets and the ladies wore long frocks. As there were about
twenty men and only seven ladies we women danced every dance whilst the surplus
men got into a huddle around the bar. George and I spent the night with the Agricultural
Officer, Mr Eustace, and I met his fiancee, Lillian Austin from South Africa, to whom I took
a great liking. She is Governess to the children of Major Masters who has a farm in the
On the Sunday morning we had a look at the township. The Boma was an old German one and was once fortified as the Africans in this district are a very warlike tribe.
They are fine looking people. The men wear sort of togas and bands of cloth around
their heads and look like Roman Senators, but the women go naked except for a belt
from which two broad straps hang down, one in front and another behind. Not a graceful
garb I assure you.
We also spent a pleasant hour in the Botanical Gardens, laid out during the last
war by the District Commissioner, Major Wells, with German prisoner of war labour.
There are beautiful lawns and beds of roses and other flowers and shady palm lined
walks and banana groves. The gardens are terraced with flights of brick steps connecting
the different levels and there is a large artificial pond with little islands in it. I believe Major
Wells designed the lake to resemble in miniature, the Lakes of Killarney.
I enjoyed the trip very much. We got home at 8 pm to find the front door locked
and the kitchen boy fast asleep on my newly covered couch! I hastily retreated to the
bedroom whilst George handled the situation.
Eleanor.January 20, 2022 at 9:16 am #6255
George Samuel Marshall 1903-1995
Florence Noreen Warren (Nora) 1906-1988
I always called my grandfather Mop, apparently because I couldn’t say the name Grandpa, but whatever the reason, the name stuck. My younger brother also called him Mop, but our two cousins did not.
My earliest memories of my grandparents are the picnics. Grandma and Mop loved going out in the car for a picnic. Favourite spots were the Clee Hills in Shropshire, North Wales, especially Llanbedr, Malvern, and Derbyshire, and closer to home, the caves and silver birch woods at Kinver Edge, Arley by the river Severn, or Bridgnorth, where Grandma’s sister Hildreds family lived. Stourbridge was on the western edge of the Black Country in the Midlands, so one was quickly in the countryside heading west. They went north to Derbyshire less, simply because the first part of the trip entailed driving through Wolverhampton and other built up and not particularly pleasant urban areas. I’m sure they’d have gone there more often, as they were both born in Derbyshire, if not for that initial stage of the journey.
There was predominantly grey tartan car rug in the car for picnics, and a couple of folding chairs. There were always a couple of cushions on the back seat, and I fell asleep in the back more times than I can remember, despite intending to look at the scenery. On the way home Grandma would always sing, “Show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I want to go to bed, I had a little drink about an hour ago, And it’s gone right to my head.” I’ve looked online for that song, and have not found it anywhere!
Grandma didn’t just make sandwiches for picnics, there were extra containers of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and so on. I used to love to wash up the picnic plates in the little brook on the Clee Hills, near Cleeton St Mary. The close cropped grass was ideal for picnics, and Mop and the sheep would Baaa at each other.
Mop would base the days outting on the weather forcast, but Grandma often used to say he always chose the opposite of what was suggested. She said if you want to go to Derbyshire, tell him you want to go to Wales. I recall him often saying, on a gloomy day, Look, there’s a bit of clear sky over there. Mop always did the driving as Grandma never learned to drive. Often she’d dust the dashboard with a tissue as we drove along.
My brother and I often spent the weekend at our grandparents house, so that our parents could go out on a Saturday night. They gave us 5 shillings pocket money, which I used to spend on two Ladybird books at 2 shillings and sixpence each. We had far too many sweets while watching telly in the evening ~ in the dark, as they always turned the lights off to watch television. The lemonade and pop was Corona, and came in returnable glass bottles. We had Woodpecker cider too, even though it had a bit of an alcohol content.
Mop smoked Kensitas and Grandma smoked Sovereign cigarettes, or No6, and the packets came with coupons. They often let me choose something for myself out of the catalogue when there were enough coupons saved up.
When I had my first garden, in a rented house a short walk from theirs, they took me to garden nurseries and taught me all about gardening. In their garden they had berberis across the front of the house under the window, and cotoneaster all along the side of the garage wall. The silver birth tree on the lawn had been purloined as a sapling from Kinver edge, when they first moved into the house. (they lived in that house on Park Road for more than 60 years). There were perennials and flowering shrubs along the sides of the back garden, and behind the silver birch, and behind that was the vegeatable garden. Right at the back was an Anderson shelter turned into a shed, the rhubarb, and the washing line, and the canes for the runner beans in front of those. There was a little rose covered arch on the path on the left, and privet hedges all around the perimeter.
My grandfather was a dental technician. He worked for various dentists on their premises over the years, but he always had a little workshop of his own at the back of his garage. His garage was full to the brim of anything that might potentially useful, but it was not chaotic. He knew exactly where to find anything, from the tiniest screw for spectacles to a useful bit of wire. He was “mechanicaly minded” and could always fix things like sewing machines and cars and so on.
Mop used to let me sit with him in his workshop, and make things out of the pink wax he used for gums to embed the false teeth into prior to making the plaster casts. The porcelain teeth came on cards, and were strung in place by means of little holes on the back end of the teeth. I still have a necklace I made by threading teeth onto a string. There was a foot pedal operated drill in there as well, possibly it was a dentists drill previously, that he used with miniature grinding or polishing attachments. Sometimes I made things out of the pink acrylic used for the final denture, which had a strong smell and used to harden quickly, so you had to work fast. Initially, the workshop was to do the work for Uncle Ralph, Grandmas’s sisters husband, who was a dentist. In later years after Ralph retired, I recall a nice man called Claude used to come in the evening to collect the dentures for another dental laboratory. Mop always called his place of work the laboratory.
Grandma loved books and was always reading, in her armchair next to the gas fire. I don’t recall seeing Mop reading a book, but he was amazingly well informed about countless topics.
At family gatherings, Mops favourite topic of conversation after dinner was the atrocities committed over the centuries by organized religion.
My grandfather played snooker in his younger years at the Conservative club. I recall my father assuming he voted Conservative, and Mop told him in no uncertain terms that he’s always voted Labour. When asked why he played snooker at the Conservative club and not the Labour club, he said with a grin that “it was a better class of people”, but that he’d never vote Conservative because it was of no benefit to the likes of us working people.
Grandma and her sister in law Marie had a little grocers shop on Brettel Lane in Amblecote for a few years but I have no personal recollection of that as it was during the years we lived in USA. I don’t recall her working other than that. She had a pastry making day once a week, and made Bakewell tart, apple pie, a meat pie, and her own style of pizza. She had an old black hand operated sewing machine, and made curtains and loose covers for the chairs and sofa, but I don’t think she made her own clothes, at least not in later years. I have her sewing machine here in Spain.
At regular intervals she’d move all the furniture around and change the front room into the living room and the back into the dining room and vice versa. In later years Mop always had the back bedroom (although when I lived with them aged 14, I had the back bedroom, and painted the entire room including the ceiling purple). He had a very lumpy mattress but he said it fit his bad hip perfectly.
Grandma used to alternate between the tiny bedroom and the big bedroom at the front. (this is in later years, obviously) The wardrobes and chests of drawers never changed, they were oak and substantial, but rather dated in appearance. They had a grandfather clock with a brass face and a grandmother clock. Over the fireplace in the living room was a Utrillo print. The bathroom and lavatory were separate rooms, and the old claw foot bath had wood panels around it to make it look more modern. There was a big hot water geyser above it. Grandma was fond of using stick on Fablon tile effects to try to improve and update the appearance of the bathroom and kitchen. Mop was a generous man, but would not replace household items that continued to function perfectly well. There were electric heaters in all the rooms, of varying designs, and gas fires in living room and dining room. The coal house on the outside wall was later turned into a downstairs shower room, when Mop moved his bedroom downstairs into the front dining room, after Grandma had died and he was getting on.
Mop was 91 when he told me he wouldn’t be growing any vegetables that year. He said the sad thing was that he knew he’d never grow vegetables again. He worked part time until he was in his early 80s.December 21, 2021 at 1:47 pm #6247
Warren Brothers Boiler Makers
Samuel Warren, my great grandfather, and husband of Florence Nightingale Gretton, worked with the family company of boiler makers in Newhall in his early years. He developed an interest in motor cars, and left the family business to start up on his own. By all accounts, he made some bad decisions and borrowed a substantial amount of money from his sister. It was because of this disastrous state of affairs that the impoverished family moved from Swadlincote/Newhall to Stourbridge.
1914: Tram no 10 on Union Road going towards High Street Newhall. On the left Henry Harvey Engineer, on the right Warren Bros Boiler Manufacturers & Engineers:
I found a newspaper article in the Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal dated the 2nd October 1915 about a Samuel Warren of Warren Brothers Boilermakers, but it was about my great grandfathers uncle, also called Samuel.
DEATH OF MR. SAMUEL WARREN, OF NEWHALL. Samuel Warren, of Rose Villa, Newhall, passed away on Saturday evening at the age of 85.. Of somewhat retiring disposition, he took little or no active part in public affairs, but for many years was trustee of the loyal British Oak Lodge of the M.U. of Oddfellows, and in many other ways served His community when opportunity permitted. He was member of the firm of Warren Bros., of the Boiler Works, Newhall. This thriving business was established by the late Mr. Benjamin Bridge, over 60 years ago, and on his death it was taken over by his four nephews. Mr. William Warren died several years ago, and with the demise Mr. Samuel Warren, two brothers remain, Messrs. Henry and Benjamin Warren. He leaves widow, six daughters, and three sons to mourn his loss.
This was the first I’d heard of Benjamin Bridge. William Warren mentioned in the article as having died previously was Samuel’s father, my great great grandfather. William’s brother Henry was the father of Ben Warren, the footballer.
But who was Benjamin Bridge?
Samuel’s father was William Warren 1835-1881. He had a brother called Samuel, mentioned above, and William’s father was also named Samuel. Samuel Warren 1800-1882 married Elizabeth Bridge 1813-1872. Benjamin Bridge 1811-1898 was Elizabeth’s brother.
Burton Chronicle 28 July 1898:
Benjamin and his wife Jane had no children. According to the obituary in the newspaper, the couple were fondly remembered for their annual tea’s for the widows of the town. Benjamin Bridge’s house was known as “the preachers house”. He was superintendent of Newhall Sunday School and member of Swadlincote’s board of health. And apparently very fond of a tall white hat!
On the 1881 census, Benjamin Bridge and his wife live near to the Warren family in Newhall. The Warren’s live in the “boiler yard” and the family living in between the Bridge’s and the Warren’s include an apprentice boiler maker, so we can assume these were houses incorporated in the boiler works property. Benjamin is a 72 year old retired boiler maker. Elizabeth Warren is a widow (William died in 1881), two of her sons are boiler makers, and Samuel, my great grandfather, is on the next page of the census, at seven years old.
Warren Brothers made boilers for the Burton breweries, including Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton.
This receipt from Warrens Boiler yard for a new boiler in 1885 was purchased off Ebay by Colin Smith. He gave it to one of the grandsons of Robert Adolphus Warren, to keep in the Warren family. It is in his safe at home, and he promised Colin that it will stay in the family forever.December 16, 2021 at 1:51 pm #6240
Phyllis Ellen Marshall
1909 – 1983
Phyllis, my grandfather George Marshall’s sister, never married. She lived in her parents home in Love Lane, and spent decades of her later life bedridden, living alone and crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. She had her bed in the front downstairs room, and had cords hanging by her bed to open the curtains, turn on the tv and so on, and she had carers and meals on wheels visit her daily. The room was dark and grim, but Phyllis was always smiling and cheerful. Phyllis loved the Degas ballerinas and had a couple of prints on the walls.
I remember visiting her, but it has only recently registered that this was my great grandparents house. When I was a child, we visited her and she indicated a tin on a chest of drawers and said I could take a biscuit. It was a lemon puff, and was the stalest biscuit I’d ever had. To be polite I ate it. Then she offered me another one! I declined, but she thought I was being polite and said “Go on! You can have another!” I ate another one, and have never eaten a lemon puff since that day.
Phyllis’s nephew Bryan Marshall used to visit her regularly. I didn’t realize how close they were until recently, when I resumed contact with Bryan, who emigrated to USA in the 1970s following a successful application for a job selling stained glass windows and church furnishings.
I asked on a Stourbridge facebook group if anyone remembered her.
AF Yes I remember her. My friend and I used to go up from Longlands school every Friday afternoon to do jobs for her. I remember she had a record player and we used to put her 45rpm record on Send in the Clowns for her. Such a lovely lady. She had her bed in the front room.
KW I remember very clearly a lady in a small house in Love Lane with alley at the left hand. I was intrigued by this lady who used to sit with the front door open and she was in a large chair of some sort. I used to see people going in and out and the lady was smiling. I was young then (31) and wondered how she coped but my sense was she had lots of help. I’ve never forgotten that lady in Love Lane sitting in the open door way I suppose when it was warm enough.
LR I used to deliver meals on wheels to her lovely lady.
I sent Bryan the comments from the Stourbridge group and he replied:
Thanks Tracy. I don’t recognize the names here but lovely to see such kind comments.
In the early 70’s neighbors on Corser Street, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Braithwaite would pop around with occasional visits and meals. Walter was my piano teacher for awhile when I was in my early twenties. He was a well known music teacher at Rudolph Steiner School (former Elmfield School) on Love Lane. A very fine school. I seem to recall seeing a good article on Walter recently…perhaps on the Stourbridge News website. He was very well known.
I’m ruminating about life with my Aunt Phyllis. We were very close. Our extra special time was every Saturday at 5pm (I seem to recall) we’d watch Doctor Who. Right from the first episode. We loved it. Likewise I’d do the children’s crossword out of Woman’s Realm magazine…always looking to win a camera but never did ! She opened my mind to the Bible, music and ballet. She once got tickets and had a taxi take us into Birmingham to see the Bolshoi Ballet…at a time when they rarely left their country. It was a very big deal in the early 60’s. ! I’ve many fond memories about her and grandad which I’ll share in due course. I’d change the steel needle on the old record player, following each play of the 78rpm records…oh my…another world.
Bryan continues reminiscing about Phyllis in further correspondence:
Yes, I can recall those two Degas prints. I don’t know much of Phyllis’ early history other than she was a hairdresser in Birmingham. I want to say at John Lewis, for some reason (so there must have been a connection and being such a large store I bet they did have a salon?)
You will know that she had severe and debilitating rheumatoid arthritis that eventually gnarled her hands and moved through her body. I remember strapping on her leg/foot braces and hearing her writhe in pain as I did so but she wanted to continue walking standing/ getting up as long as she could. I’d take her out in the wheelchair and I can’t believe I say it along …but down Stanley Road!! (I had subsequent nightmares about what could have happened to her, had I tripped or let go!) She loved Mary Stevens Park, the swans, ducks and of course Canadian geese. Was grateful for everything in creation. As I used to go over Hanbury Hill on my visit to Love Lane, she would always remind me to smell the “sea-air” as I crested the hill.
In the earlier days she smoked cigarettes with one of those long filters…looking like someone from the twenties.
I’ll check on “Send in the clowns”. I do recall that music. I remember also she loved to hear Neil Diamond. Her favorites in classical music gave me an appreciation of Elgar and Delius especially. She also loved ballet music such as Swan Lake and Nutcracker. Scheherazade and La Boutique Fantastic also other gems.
When grandad died she and aunt Dorothy shared more about grandma (who died I believe when John and I were nine-months old…therefore early 1951). Grandma (Mary Ann Gilman Purdy) played the piano and loved Strauss and Offenbach. The piano in the picture you sent had a bad (wonky) leg which would fall off and when we had the piano at 4, Mount Road it was rather dangerous. In any event my parents didn’t want me or others “banging on it” for fear of waking the younger brothers so it disappeared at sometime.
By the way, the dog, Flossy was always so rambunctious (of course, she was a JRT!) she was put on the stairway which fortunately had a door on it. Having said that I’ve always loved dogs so was very excited to see her and disappointed when she was not around.
Phyllis with her parents William and Mary Marshall, and Flossie the dog in the garden at Love Lane:
I’ll always remember the early days with the outside toilet with the overhead cistern caked in active BIG spider webs. I used to have to light a candle to go outside, shielding the flame until destination. In that space I’d set the candle down and watch the eery shadows move from side to side whilst…well anyway! Then I’d run like hell back into the house. Eventually the kitchen wall was broken through so it became an indoor loo. Phew!
In the early days the house was rented for ten-shillings a week…I know because I used to take over a ten-bob-note to a grumpy lady next door who used to sign the receipt in the rent book. Then, I think she died and it became available for $600.00 yes…the whole house for $600.00 but it wasn’t purchased then. Eventually aunt Phyllis purchased it some years later…perhaps when grandad died.
I used to work much in the back garden which was a lovely walled garden with arch-type decorations in the brickwork and semicircular shaped capping bricks. The abundant apple tree. Raspberry and loganberry canes. A gooseberry bush and huge Victoria plum tree on the wall at the bottom of the garden which became a wonderful attraction for wasps! (grandad called the “whasps”). He would stew apples and fruit daily.
Do you remember their black and white cat Twinky? Always sat on the pink-screen TV and when she died they were convinced that “that’s wot got ‘er”. Grandad of course loved all his cats and as he aged, he named them all “Billy”.
Have you come across the name “Featherstone” in grandma’s name. I don’t recall any details but Dorothy used to recall this. She did much searching of the family history Such a pity she didn’t hand anything on to anyone. She also said that we had a member of the family who worked with James Watt….but likewise I don’t have details.
Gifts of chocolates to Phyllis were regular and I became the recipient of the overflow!
What a pity Dorothy’s family history research has disappeared! I have found the Featherstone’s, and the Purdy who worked with James Watt, but I wonder what else Dorothy knew.
I mentioned DH Lawrence to Bryan, and the connection to Eastwood, where Bryan’s grandma (and Phyllis’s mother) Mary Ann Gilman Purdy was born, and shared with him the story about Francis Purdy, the Primitive Methodist minister, and about Francis’s son William who invented the miners lamp.
As a nosy young man I was looking through the family bookcase in Love Lane and came across a brown paper covered book. Intrigued, I found “Sons and Lovers” D.H. Lawrence. I knew it was a taboo book (in those days) as I was growing up but now I see the deeper connection. Of course! I know that Phyllis had I think an earlier boyfriend by the name of Maurice who lived in Perry Barr, Birmingham. I think he later married but was always kind enough to send her a book and fond message each birthday (Feb.12). I guess you know grandad’s birthday – July 28. We’d always celebrate those days. I’d usually be the one to go into Oldswinford and get him a cardigan or pullover and later on, his 2oz tins of St. Bruno tobacco for his pipe (I recall the room filled with smoke as he puffed away).
Dorothy and Phyllis always spoke of their ancestor’s vocation as a Minister. So glad to have this history! Wow, what a story too. The Lord rescued him from mischief indeed. Just goes to show how God can change hearts…one at a time.
So interesting to hear about the Miner’s Lamp. My vicar whilst growing up at St. John’s in Stourbridge was from Durham and each Harvest Festival, there would be a miner’s lamp placed upon the altar as a symbol of the colliery and the bountiful harvest.
More recollections from Bryan about the house and garden at Love Lane:
I always recall tea around the three legged oak table bedecked with a colorful seersucker cloth. Battenburg cake. Jam Roll. Rich Tea and Digestive biscuits. Mr. Kipling’s exceedingly good cakes! Home-made jam. Loose tea from the Coronation tin cannister. The ancient mangle outside the back door and the galvanized steel wash tub with hand-operated agitator on the underside of the lid. The hand operated water pump ‘though modernisation allowed for a cold tap only inside, above the single sink and wooden draining board. A small gas stove and very little room for food preparation. Amazing how the Marshalls (×7) managed in this space!
The small window over the sink in the kitchen brought in little light since the neighbor built on a bathroom annex at the back of their house, leaving #47 with limited light, much to to upset of grandad and Phyllis. I do recall it being a gloomy place..i.e.the kitchen and back room.
The garden was lovely. Long and narrow with privet hedge dividing the properties on the right and the lovely wall on the left. Dorothy planted spectacular lilac bushes against the wall. Vivid blues, purples and whites. Double-flora. Amazing…and with stunning fragrance. Grandad loved older victorian type plants such as foxgloves and comfrey. Forget-me-nots and marigolds (calendulas) in abundance. Rhubarb stalks. Always plantings of lettuce and other vegetables. Lots of mint too! A large varigated laurel bush outside the front door!
Such a pleasant walk through the past.
An autograph book belonging to Phyllis from the 1920s has survived in which each friend painted a little picture, drew a cartoon, or wrote a verse. This entry is perhaps my favourite:December 15, 2021 at 3:37 pm #6238
Ellen (Nellie) Purdy
My grandfathers aunt Nellie Purdy 1872-1947 grew up with his mother Mary Ann at the Gilmans in Buxton. We knew she was a nurse or a matron, and that she made a number of trips to USA.
I started looking for passenger lists and immigration lists (we had already found some of them, and my cousin Linda Marshall in Boston found some of them), and found one in 1904 with details of the “relatives address while in US”.
October 31st, 1904, Ellen Purdy sailed from Liverpool to Baltimore on the Friesland. She was a 32 year old nurse and she paid for her own ticket. The address of relatives in USA was Druid Hill and Lafayette Ave, Baltimore, Maryland.
I wondered if she stayed with relatives, perhaps they were the Housley descendants. It was her great uncle George Housley who emigrated in 1851, not so far away in Pennsylvania. I wanted to check the Baltimore census to find out the names at that address, in case they were Housley’s. So I joined a Baltimore History group on facebook, and asked how I might find out. The people were so enormously helpful! The address was the Home of the Friendless, an orphanage. (a historic landmark of some note I think), and someone even found Ellen Purdy listed in the Baltimore directory as a nurse there.
She sailed back to England in 1913. Ellen sailed in 1900 and 1920 as well but I haven’t unraveled those trips yet.
THE HOME OF THE FRIENDLESS, is situated at the corner of Lafayette and Druid Hill avenues, Baltimore. It is a large brick building, which was erected at a cost of $62,000. It was organized in 1854.The chief aim of the founders of this institution was to respond to a need for providing a home for the friendless and homeless children, orphans, and half-orphans, or the offspring of vagrants. It has been managed since its organization by a board of ladies, who, by close attention and efficient management, have made the institution one of the most prominent charitable institutions in the State. From its opening to the present time there have been received 5,000 children, and homes have been secured for nearly one thousand of this number. The institution has a capacity of about 200 inmates. The present number of beneficiaries is 165. A kindergarten and other educational facilities are successfully conducted. The home knows no demonimational creed, being non-sectarian. Its principal source of revenue is derived from private contributions. For many years the State has appropriated different sums towards it maintenance, and the General Assembly of 1892 contributed the sum of $3,000 per annum.
A later trip: The ship’s manifest from May 1920 the Baltic lists Ellen on board arriving in Ellis Island heading to Baltimore age 48. The next of kin is listed as George Purdy (her father) of 2 Gregory Blvd Forest Side, Nottingham. She’s listed as a nurse, and sailed from Liverpool May 8 1920.
Ellen eventually retired in England and married Frank Garbett, a tax collector, at the age of 51 in Herefordshire. Judging from the number of newspaper articles I found about her, she was an active member of the community and was involved in many fundraising activities for the local cottage hospital.
Her obituary in THE KINGTON TIMES, NOVEMBER 8, 1947:
Mrs. Ellen Garbett wife of Mr. F. Garbett, of Brook Cottage, Kingsland, whose funeral took place at St. Michael’s Church, Kingsland, on October 30th, was a familiar figure in the district, and by her genial manner and kindly ways had endeared herself to many.
Mrs Garbett had had a wide experience in the nursing profession. Beginning her training in this country, she went to the Italian Riviera and there continued her work, later going to the United States. In 1916 she gained the Q.A.I.M.N.S. and returned to England and was appointed sister at the Lord Derby Military Hospital, an appointment she held for four years.
We didn’t know that Ellen had worked on the Italian Riviera, and hope in due course to find out more about it.
Mike Rushby, Ellen’s sister Kate’s grandson in Australia, spoke to his sister in USA recently about Nellie Purdy. She replied: I told you I remembered Auntie Nellie coming to Jacksdale. She gave me a small green leatherette covered bible which I still have ( though in a very battered condition). Here is a picture of it.December 15, 2021 at 1:16 pm #6237
Murder At The Bennistons
We don’t know exactly what happened immediately after the death of Catherine Housley’s mother in 1849, but by 1850 the two older daughters Elizabeth and Mary Anne were inmates in Belper Workhouse. Catherine was just six weeks old, so presumably she was with a wet nurse, possibly even prior to her mothers death. By 1851, according to the census, she was living in Heanor, a small town near to Smalley, with John Benniston, a framework knitter, and his family. Framework knitters (abbreviated to FWK should you happen to see it on a census) rented a large loom and made stockings and everyone in the family helped. Often the occupation of other household members would be “seamer”: they would stitch the stocking seams together. Catherine was still living with the Bennistons ten years later in 1861.
I read some chapters of a thesis on the south Derbyshire poor in the 1800s and found some illuminating information about indentured apprenticeship of children especially if one parent died. It was not at all uncommon, and framework knitters in particular often had indentured apprentices. It was a way to ensure the child was fed and learned a skill. Children commonly worked from the age of ten or 12 anyway. They were usually placed walking distance of the family home and maintained contact. The indenture could be paid by the parish poor fund, which cost them slightly less than sending them to the poorhouse, and could be paid off by a parent if circumstances improved to release the child from the apprenticeship.
A child who was an indentured apprentice would continue a normal life after the term of apprenticeship, usually still in contact with family locally.
I found a newspaper article titled “Child Murder at Heanor” dated 1858.
A 23 year old lodger at the Bennistons, Hannah Cresswell, apparently murdered a new born baby that she gave birth to in the privy, which the midwife took away and had buried as a still birth. The baby was exhumed after an anonymous tip off from a neighbour, citing that it was the 4th such incident. Catherine Housley would have been nine years old at the time.
Subsequent newspaper articles indicate that the case was thrown out, despite the doctors evidence that the baby had been beaten to death.
In July 1858 the inquest was held in the King of Prussia, on the Hannah Cresswell baby murder at the Bennistons.
The King of Prussia, Heanor, in 1860:December 13, 2021 at 11:29 am #6222
George Gilman Rushby: The Cousin Who Went To Africa
The portrait of the woman has “mother of Catherine Housley, Smalley” written on the back, and one of the family photographs has “Francis Purdy” written on the back. My first internet search was “Catherine Housley Smalley Francis Purdy”. Easily found was the family tree of George (Mike) Rushby, on one of the genealogy websites. It seemed that it must be our family, but the African lion hunter seemed unlikely until my mother recalled her father had said that he had a cousin who went to Africa. I also noticed that the lion hunter’s middle name was Gilman ~ the name that Catherine Housley’s daughter ~ my great grandmother, Mary Ann Gilman Purdy ~ adopted, from her aunt and uncle who brought her up.
I tried to contact George (Mike) Rushby via the ancestry website, but got no reply. I searched for his name on Facebook and found a photo of a wildfire in a place called Wardell, in Australia, and he was credited with taking the photograph. A comment on the photo, which was a few years old, got no response, so I found a Wardell Community group on Facebook, and joined it. A very small place, population some 700 or so, and I had an immediate response on the group to my question. They knew Mike, exchanged messages, and we were able to start emailing. I was in the chair at the dentist having an exceptionally long canine root canal at the time that I got the message with his email address, and at that moment the song Down in Africa started playing.
Mike said it was clever of me to track him down which amused me, coming from the son of an elephant and lion hunter. He didn’t know why his father’s middle name was Gilman, and was not aware that Catherine Housley’s sister married a Gilman.
Mike Rushby kindly gave me permission to include his family history research in my book. This is the story of my grandfather George Marshall’s cousin. A detailed account of George Gilman Rushby’s years in Africa can be found in another chapter called From Tanganyika With Love; the letters Eleanor wrote to her family.
George Gilman Rushby:
The story of George Gilman Rushby 1900-1969, as told by his son Mike:
George Gilman Rushby:
Elephant hunter,poacher, prospector, farmer, forestry officer, game ranger, husband to Eleanor, and father of 6 children who now live around the world.
George Gilman Rushby was born in Nottingham on 28 Feb 1900 the son of Catherine Purdy and John Henry Payling Rushby. But John Henry died when his son was only one and a half years old, and George shunned his drunken bullying stepfather Frank Freer and was brought up by Gypsies who taught him how to fight and took him on regular poaching trips. His love of adventure and his ability to hunt were nurtured at an early stage of his life.
The family moved to Eastwood, where his mother Catherine owned and managed The Three Tuns Inn, but when his stepfather died in mysterious circumstances, his mother married a wealthy bookmaker named Gregory Simpson. He could afford to send George to Worksop College and to Rugby School. This was excellent schooling for George, but the boarding school environment, and the lack of a stable home life, contributed to his desire to go out in the world and do his own thing. When he finished school his first job was as a trainee electrician with Oaks & Co at Pye Bridge. He also worked part time as a motor cycle mechanic and as a professional boxer to raise the money for a voyage to South Africa.
In May 1920 George arrived in Durban destitute and, like many others, living on the beach and dependant upon the Salvation Army for a daily meal. However he soon got work as an electrical mechanic, and after a couple of months had earned enough money to make the next move North. He went to Lourenco Marques where he was appointed shift engineer for the town’s power station. However he was still restless and left the comfort of Lourenco Marques for Beira in August 1921.
Beira was the start point of the new railway being built from the coast to Nyasaland. George became a professional hunter providing essential meat for the gangs of construction workers building the railway. He was a self employed contractor with his own support crew of African men and began to build up a satisfactory business. However, following an incident where he had to shoot and kill a man who attacked him with a spear in middle of the night whilst he was sleeping, George left the lower Zambezi and took a paddle steamer to Nyasaland (Malawi). On his arrival in Karongo he was encouraged to shoot elephant which had reached plague proportions in the area – wrecking African homes and crops, and threatening the lives of those who opposed them.
His next move was to travel by canoe the five hundred kilometre length of Lake Nyasa to Tanganyika, where he hunted for a while in the Lake Rukwa area, before walking through Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) to the Congo. Hunting his way he overachieved his quota of ivory resulting in his being charged with trespass, the confiscation of his rifles, and a fine of one thousand francs. He hunted his way through the Congo to Leopoldville then on to the Portuguese enclave, near the mouth of the mighty river, where he worked as a barman in a rough and tough bar until he received a message that his old friend Lumb had found gold at Lupa near Chunya. George set sail on the next boat for Antwerp in Belgium, then crossed to England and spent a few weeks with his family in Jacksdale before returning by sea to Dar es Salaam. Arriving at the gold fields he pegged his claim and almost immediately went down with blackwater fever – an illness that used to kill three out of four within a week.
When he recovered from his fever, George exchanged his gold lease for a double barrelled .577 elephant rifle and took out a special elephant control licence with the Tanganyika Government. He then headed for the Congo again and poached elephant in Northern Rhodesia from a base in the Congo. He was known by the Africans as “iNyathi”, or the Buffalo, because he was the most dangerous in the long grass. After a profitable hunting expedition in his favourite hunting ground of the Kilombera River he returned to the Congo via Dar es Salaam and Mombassa. He was after the Kabalo district elephant, but hunting was restricted, so he set up his base in The Central African Republic at a place called Obo on the Congo tributary named the M’bomu River. From there he could make poaching raids into the Congo and the Upper Nile regions of the Sudan. He hunted there for two and a half years. He seldom came across other Europeans; hunters kept their own districts and guarded their own territories. But they respected one another and he made good and lasting friendships with members of that small select band of adventurers.
Leaving for Europe via the Congo, George enjoyed a short holiday in Jacksdale with his mother. On his return trip to East Africa he met his future bride in Cape Town. She was 24 year old Eleanor Dunbar Leslie; a high school teacher and daughter of a magistrate who spent her spare time mountaineering, racing ocean yachts, and riding horses. After a whirlwind romance, they were betrothed within 36 hours.
On 25 July 1930 George landed back in Dar es Salaam. He went directly to the Mbeya district to find a home. For one hundred pounds he purchased the Waizneker’s farm on the banks of the Mntshewe Stream. Eleanor, who had been delayed due to her contract as a teacher, followed in November. Her ship docked in Dar es Salaam on 7 Nov 1930, and they were married that day. At Mchewe Estate, their newly acquired farm, they lived in a tent whilst George with some help built their first home – a lovely mud-brick cottage with a thatched roof. George and Eleanor set about developing a coffee plantation out of a bush block. It was a very happy time for them. There was no electricity, no radio, and no telephone. Newspapers came from London every two months. There were a couple of neighbours within twenty miles, but visitors were seldom seen. The farm was a haven for wild life including snakes, monkeys and leopards. Eleanor had to go South all the way to Capetown for the birth of her first child Ann, but with the onset of civilisation, their first son George was born at a new German Mission hospital that had opened in Mbeya.
Occasionally George had to leave the farm in Eleanor’s care whilst he went off hunting to make his living. Having run the coffee plantation for five years with considerable establishment costs and as yet no return, George reluctantly started taking paying clients on hunting safaris as a “white hunter”. This was an occupation George didn’t enjoy. but it brought him an income in the days when social security didn’t exist. Taking wealthy clients on hunting trips to kill animals for trophies and for pleasure didn’t amuse George who hunted for a business and for a way of life. When one of George’s trackers was killed by a leopard that had been wounded by a careless client, George was particularly upset.
The coffee plantation was approaching the time of its first harvest when it was suddenly attacked by plagues of borer beetles and ring barking snails. At the same time severe hail storms shredded the crop. The pressure of the need for an income forced George back to the Lupa gold fields. He was unlucky in his gold discoveries, but luck came in a different form when he was offered a job with the Forestry Department. The offer had been made in recognition of his initiation and management of Tanganyika’s rainbow trout project. George spent most of his short time with the Forestry Department encouraging the indigenous people to conserve their native forests.
In November 1938 he transferred to the Game Department as Ranger for the Eastern Province of Tanganyika, and over several years was based at Nzasa near Dar es Salaam, at the old German town of Morogoro, and at lovely Lyamungu on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Then the call came for him to be transferred to Mbeya in the Southern Province for there was a serious problem in the Njombe district, and George was selected by the Department as the only man who could possibly fix the problem.
Over a period of several years, people were being attacked and killed by marauding man-eating lions. In the Wagingombe area alone 230 people were listed as having been killed. In the Njombe district, which covered an area about 200 km by 300 km some 1500 people had been killed. Not only was the rural population being decimated, but the morale of the survivors was so low, that many of them believed that the lions were not real. Many thought that evil witch doctors were controlling the lions, or that lion-men were changing form to kill their enemies. Indeed some wichdoctors took advantage of the disarray to settle scores and to kill for reward.
By hunting down and killing the man-eaters, and by showing the flesh and blood to the doubting tribes people, George was able to instil some confidence into the villagers. However the Africans attributed the return of peace and safety, not to the efforts of George Rushby, but to the reinstallation of their deposed chief Matamula Mangera who had previously been stood down for corruption. It was Matamula , in their eyes, who had called off the lions.
Soon after this adventure, George was appointed Deputy Game Warden for Tanganyika, and was based in Arusha. He retired in 1956 to the Njombe district where he developed a coffee plantation, and was one of the first in Tanganyika to plant tea as a major crop. However he sensed a swing in the political fortunes of his beloved Tanganyika, and so sold the plantation and settled in a cottage high on a hill overlooking the Navel Base at Simonstown in the Cape. It was whilst he was there that TV Bulpin wrote his biography “The Hunter is Death” and George wrote his book “No More The Tusker”. He died in the Cape, and his youngest son Henry scattered his ashes at the Southern most tip of Africa where the currents of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet .
George Gilman Rushby:
Glor startled. She’d been watching Mavis and Shar through the day-room window. Against her advice, they had joined the outdoor CryoChi class and it really was a hoot watching them gyrating around. All of a sudden though, like a bloody sign, there was a butterfly! Landed on the window ledge and then bumped against the glass like it were trying to get in. Most peculiar. Anyway it had got her thinking about how she was a bit like a butterfly herself. And how she was going to flit around showing off her fine new face. Soon as she got out of here anyway.
“Wot are you pissting about? Gave me a fright you did!” Glor frowned. “I was doing me meditations.”
“Sorry,” said Sophie.
“Sophie, ain’t it? You’re new here?”
“Well don’t you worry. A few beauty treatments and you’ll scrub up alright.” She paused, wondering if there was a kindly way of mentioning the latex. “And maybe a brand new outfit to go with the new face!” It didn’t seem to cheer Sophie up any and Glor sighed. “What were you pissting about anyway, Sophie?”
Sophie looked nervously over her shoulder. “I’m here against my will. In fact, I don’t even know where I am.”
“I said I’m here against my will!”
Glor nodded. “Hubby book you in did he? My first were always threatening to do that if I didn’t tidy myself up. Bastard. He’ll be sorry now though.” She smiled, thinking of the butterfly.
They found me and locked me up again but I suppose it was going to happen sooner or later. I don’t mind though, I can always plot an escape when I’m ready but the fact is, I was tired after awhile. I needed a rest and so here I am. The weather’s awful so I may as well rest up here for a bit longer. They gave me a shot, too, so I don’t have to wear a mask anymore. Unless I want to wear it as a disguise of course, so I’ll keep a couple for when I escape again.
They gave me a computer to keep me amused and showed me how to do the daftest things I’d never want to do and I thought, what a load of rubbish, just give me a good book, but then this charming little angel of a helper appeared as if by magic and showed me how to do a family tree on this machine. Well! I had no idea such pursuits could be so engrossing, it’s like being the heroine in a detective novel, like writing your own book in a way.
I got off on a sidetrack with the search for one woman in particular and got I tell you I got so sucked inside the story I spent a fortnight in a small village in the north midlands two centuries ago that I had to shake me head to get back to the present for the necessary daily functions. I feel like I could write a book about that fortnight. Two hundred years explored in a fortnight in the search for CH’s mother.
I could write a book on the maternal line and how patriarchy has failed us in the search for our ancestry and blood lines. The changing names, the census status, lack of individual occupation but a mother knows for sure who her children are. And yet we follow paternal lines because the names are easier, but mothers know for sure which child is theirs whereas men can not be as sure as that. Barking up the wrong tree is easy done.
I can’t start writing any of these books at the moment because I’m still trying to find out who won the SK&JH vs ALL the rest of the H family court case in 1873. It seems the youngest son (who was an overseer with questionable accounts) was left out of the will. The executor of the will was his co plaintiff in the court case, a neighbouring land owner, and the whole rest of the family were the defendants. It’s gripping, there are so many twists and turns. This might give us a clue why CH grew up in the B’s house instead of her own. Why did CH’s mothers keep the boys and send two girls to live with another family? How did we end up with the oil painting of CH’s mother? It’s a mystery and I’m having a whale of a time.
Another good thing about my little adventure and then this new hobby is how, as you may have noticed, I’m not half as daft as I was when I was withering away in that place with nothing to do. I mean I know I’m withering away and not going anywhere again now, but on the other hand I’ve just had a fortnights holiday in the nineteenth century, which is more than many can say, even if they’ve been allowed out.
Will didn’t like unexpected visitors. What kind of people turned up unannounced nowadays? He was tempted to ignore the knocking but then it is the not knowing that’s the killer. And what if someone gets it in their head to nose around the property?
“Yep?” he said opening the door. The pair of them were starting off down the front steps as though they meant to go exploring. He’d been right to answer.
“Oh, you are here!” said the girl, turning towards him with a bright smile. “Sorry to just turn up like this …”
Will gave her a curt nod and she faltered a little.
“Uh, my name is Clara and this is my grandfather, Bob, and we are hoping you can help us … “
The old fellow with her, Bob, was staring hard at Will. He looked familiar but Will couldn’t quite place him … he wasn’t local. And he certainly didn’t recognise the girl—very pretty; he would definitely have remembered her.
“Have we met somewhere, Bob?” Will asked.
Nora commented favourably on the view, relieved to have been given a clue about what she was supposed to have noticed. It was a splendid panorama, and Will seemed pleased with her response. She asked if it was possible to see the old smugglers path from their vantage point, and he pointed to a dirt road in the valley below that disappeared from view behind a stand of eucalyptus trees. Will indicated a tiny white speck of an old farm ruin, and said the smugglers path went over the hill behind it.
Shading her eyes from the sun, Nora peered into the distance beyond the hill, wondering how far it was to Clara’s grandfathers house. Of course she knew it was 25 kilometers or so, but wasn’t sure how many hills behind that one, or if the path veered off at some point in another direction.
Wondering where Clara was reminded Nora that her friend would be waiting for her, and quite possibly worrying that she hadn’t yet arrived. She sighed, making her mind up to leave first thing the next morning. She didn’t mention this to Will though, and wondered briefly why she hesitated. Something about the violent sweep of his arm when she asked about her phone had made her uneasy, such a contrast to his usual easy going grins.
Then she reminded herself that she had only just met him, and barely knew anything about him at all, despite all the stories they’d shared. When she thought about it, none of the stories had given her any information ~ they had mostly been anecdotes that had a similarity to her own, and although pleasant, were inconsequential. And she kept forgetting to ask him about all the statues at his place.
Wishing she could at least send a text message to Clara, Nora remembered the remote viewing practice they’d done together over the years, and realized she could at least attempt a telepathic communication. Then later, if Clara gave her a hard time about not staying in contact, she could always act surprised and say, Why, didn’t you get the message?
She found a flat stone to sit on, and focused on the smugglers path below. Then she closed her eyes and said clearly in her mind, “I’ll be there tomorrow evening, Clara. All is well. I am safe.”
She opened her eyes and saw that Will had started to head back down the path. “Come on!” he called, “Time for lunch!”
Grandpa Bob loved the sound of the kettle whistling. Cheery, he thought as he turned the flame off. Companionable.
He shuffled to the kitchen door. “Clara, cuppa?” he shouted down the hallway but there was no reply. Maybe she wasn’t up yet—it had been a long trip for her yesterday. Perhaps he could make her up a tray, although she’d probably say he was fussing.
Just then he heard VanGogh barking from the garden. He drew back the curtain and peered out the kitchen window. There she was! Way down the back digging in the vegetable garden. Bless her soul. Must have got started early on that weeding. She was saying she would last night. Grandpa, you really need to get some help around the place! she’d scolded.
“Clara, love!” he shouted. Damn dog was making such a racket she didn’t hear him. Nothing for it but to go out there. He chuckled, thinking how she’d probably scold him again for wandering around outside in his pyjamas. Bossy little thing she could be. But a good girl coming all this way to visit him.
He slipped on his outdoor shoes and slowly made his way down the path to the vegetable garden. VanGogh bounded over to him and Grandpa Bob gave him a pat. “What are you two up to out here, eh VanGogh?” But Clara was so engrossed on her phone she didn’t even glance up. He was about to call out to her again when he saw what she’d dug up and the words stuck in his throat. He let out a small cry.
Everyone seems happy about the rain, and I don’t blame them. I’m not daft, I know we need rain but it’s not so easy when you don’t have a home. But I am nothing if not stalwart and stoic, resourceful and adaptable, and I found a good way to keep warm and dry during the downpours. It’s amazing how much heat an animal gives off, so I camp down in stables or kennels when it’s cold and wet. It can get a bit smelly, but it’s warm and dry and when my clothes are damp and stinking I just throw them all away and get some new ones out of the recycling bins. Just to clarify, I find the new clothes first before throwing the ones I’m wearing away. I’m not daft, I know walking around naked would catch attention and I try to stay under the radar. Nobody really notices smelly old ladies wandering around these days anyway, but naked would be another matter.
There’s a stable I really like just outside of town, lots of nice deep clean straw. There’s a white horse in there that knows me now and the gentle whicker of recognition when she sees me warms my heart. I don’t stay there any two nights running though. One thing I’ve learned is don’t do anything too regular, keep it random and varied. I don’t want anyone plotting my movements and interfering with me in any way.
There’s not much to do in a stable when it rains for days and nights on end but remember things, so I may as well write them down. I’m never quite sure if the things I remember are my memories or someone elses, a past life of my own perhaps, or another person entirely. I used to worry a bit about that, but not anymore. Nobody cares and there’s nobody to flag my memories as false, and if there was, I wouldn’t care if they did.
Anyway, the other day while I was nestled in a pile of sweet hay listening to the thunder, I recalled that day when someone offered me a fortune for that old mirror I’d bought at the flea market. I know I hadn’t paid much for it, because I never did pay much for anything. Never have done. I bought it because it was unusual (hideous is what everyone said about it, but people have got very strangely ordinary taste, I’ve found) and because it was cheap enough that I could buy it without over thinking the whole thing. At the end of the day you can’t beat the magic of spontaneity, it out performs long winded assessment every time.
So this man was a friend of a friend who happened to visit and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so of course I sold the mirror to him. He was so delighted about it that I’d have given him the mirror for nothing if I knew he wanted it that much, but I’m not daft, I took the money. I found out later that he’d won the lottery, so I never felt guilty about it.
Well, after he’d gone I sat there looking at this pile of money in my hands and knew exactly what I was going to do. But first I had to find them. They’d moved again and we’d lost contact but I knew I’d find a way. And I did. They’d given up all hope of ever getting that money back that I’d borrowed, but they said the timing was perfect, couldn’t have been better, they said. It wouldn’t have meant all that much to them if I’d paid it back right away, they said, because they didn’t need it then as much as they did when they finally got it back.
They were strange times back then, and one thing after another was happening all over the world, what with the strange weather, and all the pandemics and refugees. Hard to keep food on the table, let alone make plans or pay debts back. But debt is a funny thing. I felt stung when I realized they didn’t think I intended to pay them back but the fact was, I couldn’t do it at the time. And I wanted it to be a magical perfect timing surprise when I did. I suppose in a way I wanted it to be like it was when they loaned me the money. I remember I wept at the kindness of it. Well I didn’t want them to weep necessarily, but I wanted it to mean something wonderful, somehow. And timing is everything and you can’t plan that kind of thing, not really.
It was a happy ending in the end though, I gave them the whole amount I got for that old mirror, which was considerably more than the loan.
The rain has stopped now and the sun is shining. My damp clothes are steaming and probably much smellier than I think. Time to find a recycling bin and a fresh new look.
“I’ve been wondering …” Star tightened her lips. “No … perhaps not.”
“What? Spit it out,” said Rosamund.
“It’s nothing … just that … I interpreted my remote view as New Zealand but perhaps it wasn’t New Zealand per se, and by that I mean perhaps it was a symbolic representation, a clue if you will, and i was too quick to rush in and give it meaning.”
Rosamund screwed up her face. “You lost me at Purse Eh.”
“Me too, dear!” said the middle aged lady. “Does she always go on like this?”
“Worse usually. Yabba yabba yabba them two. How about I swop you dental floss for some lippy?”
“Don’t yo mine those rudy poohs,” said Tara, who was starting to sound a little slurred. “What’d ya see, Star, eh?” Star’s remote viewing skills never failed to amaze her, and, to be honest, she’d been surprised when Star made such a horrendous hash of this latest attempt. Once she had sobered up she might feel compelled to apologise for her rude outburst. She snorted into her drink. Not bloody likely!
Before Star could answer, there was an excited scream from the waitress.
“Look, who’s here!” she shouted. “Look everybody! It’s only Vincentius come to join us!!”
“Why, thank you. What a welcome!” said Vincentius in a deep melodious voice. He sauntered casually over to the bar, seemingly oblivious to the effect he was having.
“Oh. My. God,” said Star.
Rosamund who was using the lipstick to write her number on the burly bouncer’s bicep gave him a shove. “Get lost, Loser!” she hissed.
“Over here, Vincentush! Whover yo are!” shouted Tara before falling off her bar stool.
“Bugger off, then,” said Tara. “I’m going to have a few more gin and tonics before my hair appointment. Wish me luck!”
“Oh, my!” said April with an embarrassed titter. “Fancy meeting you two here!”
“How dare YOU!” said April, scrambling over the fallen pot-plant in her haste to get away.
“Look!” cried Star. “On her shoulder! A bell-bird.”EricKeymaster
No sooner had they reached for the drinks in the office cupboard, than the phone rang loudly.
“I thought you gave her the afternoon?” Tara mouthed while picking the annoying phone. “Cartwright and Wrexham Private Investigators, can I help you?”
Her face frowned. “Herself speaking.”
“Yes, we do private investigations. Very successfully I may say. Alright Ma’am, let me check my agenda.” She looked in the air, flipping an imaginary agenda. “Oh, you’re in luck, our 5pm just cancelled. Alright then, see you at our office. Au revoir.”
Tara hung up with a smile.
Star was busy slurping the mojito while struggling with the mint bits in her teeth. “What? Tell me this instant!”
“Our second case! Isn’t it exciting!”
“Sure thing, what it is this time? Evil possession?”
“Actually, it’s not that far off. Apparently, our ladyship needs a falgrante delicto of adultery. Her husband seems to be a cheating one, and with a twinge of double personality… Or at least that’s what she said.”
“Fantastic. Can’t wait for all the juicy details. I’ll go prepare my sequin red dress to set the honey trap darling.”
“Good lord, get a hold of yourself Star, it’s only been a day, and you’re ready to jump on the next passing horse as it were.”
“Who said you shouldn’t mix pleasure with business.”
“Right. Thought that was the reverse…”
“Tsk. Just to get the last word.”
“You really know your trade, Fuyi,” said Rukshan. “You’ve built the most exquisite and comfortable place. And I think the empty dishes speak aplenty about the quality of the food and the pleasure we took in this shared meal. Now, let us help you with the dishes,” said Rukshan.
“Ach! Don’t be so polite,” said Fuyi. “I’ll have plenty of time after yar departure tomorrow. It’s not like the inn is full. Just enjoy an evening together, discuss yar plans, and have some rest. I know that life. Take the chance when it presents itself!”
The Sinese food made by the innkeeper had been delicious and quite a first for most of them. Tak had particularly enjoyed the crunchy texture of the stir fried vegetables flavoured with the famous five spices sauce. Nesy had preferred the algae and chili dishes while Fox, who ate a red hot pepper thinking it was bell pepper, had stuffed himself with juicy pork buns to put out the fire in his mouth.
Gorrash, befuddled by the novelty, had been at a loss of labels, good or bad. He simply chose to welcome the new experiences and body reactions to flavours and textures. As for Olliver, he gave up the chopsticks when he saw how fast Fox made the food disappear from the dishes.
Now that the dishes were empty, the children and Gorrash had left the table and were playing near the fireplace. Olliver was looking at the trio with envy, split between the desire to play and enjoy the simplicity of the moment, and the desire to be taken more seriously which meant participate in the conversation with the adults.
“We have plenty to discuss, Fae,” said Kumihimo.
Fuyi looked at Olliver, recognising the conundrum. “That’s settled, then,” he said to the group. Then turning toward Olliver: “Boy! I’m sure the start of the conversation will be boring for a young mind. Let’s join the others for a story of my own. You can still come back later and they’ll fill you in on the details.”
Fuyi and Olliver moved to the fireplace. The innkeeper threw cushions on the floor and sat on a wooden rocking chair. At the mention of a story, Tak, Nesy and Gorrash couldn’t contain their exuberant joy and gathered all ears around Admirable Fuyi. As he rocked, the chair creaked. He waited until they all calmed down. And when he was satisfied he started.
“I was young and still a fresh recruit in the Sinese army,” started Fuyi. “We were stationed at the western frontier just below the high plateaus and I hadn’t participated in any battle yet. With the folly of youth I thought that our weapons and the bond we shared with my fellow soldiers were enough to defeat anything.”
The words of the Great Leader Undisputed Gabe were still resonating in the back of Gavin’s mind. The promotion to Operating Tomathetan seemed a great honour on the surface, but it certainly brought its lot of responsibilities with it. And from what he had seen before, it would only add to his current ones.
Gavin descended the Pealgrim path to the Dark Room where all the sorting happened. Many trails from the many carrot fields combined into one and all led to that central building all painted in black, hence its name.
A zealous Seed level had recently been put in charge of the re-painting. As there was only black paint in the warehouse he had the genius idea to save the order some money by using only what they already had, and as there was enough paint he covered all the windows, certainly thinking light could damage the crops. Repainting everything was out of the question so they had kept it like that and just added some artificial light to help the workers. Great Leader Undisputed Gabe, had thought it was a nice initiative as now workers could work any hour of the day.
When Gavin entered the Dark Room, it reeked of carrot and sweat. Members of the cult of all ages were sorting the divine roots by shapes, sizes and thickness. Most of them didn’t know what was the final purpose, innocent minds. All they had was the Sorting Song written by Britta the one legged vestal to help her fellow cultshipers in their work.
If a carrot is short, not worth the effort
As a long stalactites, like ice on your tits
A bar thick as a fist, you’ve just been blissed
Each verse gave advices about what they were looking for, where to put them after sorting and each team had their own songs that they sang while doing their work with the enthusiasm of cultshipers. Even though the song had been crafted to answer most of the situations in terms of carrot shapes, sizes and thickness, it happened that some would not fit into any categories. And recently, those seem to happen more often than once and the pile of misshapen carrots threaten to exceed that of the others combined.
“Eugene, Have you found what is the problem?” asked Gavin to their agronomist. His surname was Carrot and he came from noble Irish descent, quite appropriate for his work, thought Gavin. Eugene was skinny with a long neck and he often seemed to abuse the ritual fasting ceremony ending with the consumption of sacred mushroom soup.
“It’s because of the microscopic snails that infest the crops,” Eugene said. Gavin couldn’t help but notice an accumulation of dried saliva at the corner of his mouth. “They’re carried by bird shit and they are too small to be eaten by our ducks and in the end they cause the carrots to grow random shapes unfit for Odin.”
Odin, short for Organic Dildo Industry, has been the main source of revenue for the cult. Since the start of the confinement the demand has skyrocketed. Especially appreciated by vegans and nature lovers, it also procured a nice orange tan on the skin after usage.
“Can’t you find smaller dwarf ducks?”
“Your Gourdness, microscopic means very tiny, even dwarf ducks wouldn’t be able to eat them unless they eat the carrots.”
“And that would be a problem,” sighed Gavin. “What is your solution then?”
“I don’t have one.”
Gavin raised his hands to the black roof in despair. Did he have to do the jobs of everyone? He needed some fresh eyes and fresh ideas.
Those last few days have been hectic. But we finally arrived. I can’t believe we survived all those police controls and those christian mobs, and I didn’t know Kady was a adept at car borrowing.
I forgot my journal because it was on the computer and I didn’t take the computer. So I don’t know how to contact you, Whale, other than using the old method: with a pen and a sheet of paper. Max gave me this piece of wrapping in which Kady had put the chocolate. He said he can still reuse it later with the writing. He’s nice, although he doesn’t look like it. I think I like him.
However, the whole thing is not like I expected. Oh sure, the pistil itself is quite impressive: that lone and long stem coming out of that canyon and surrounded by those mountains in the distance. I’m talking about the camp. It’s like a refugee camp, and all of them avid to be able to go in somehow. I’m not sure what they expect. Kady hasn’t been in a sharing mood lately, and I haven’t asked that many questions. But she told Max we had to discuss before we go in tomorrow. So I’m feeling nervous about what I’ll learn tonight.
I’ve been told once: ask and you will receive. What am I supposed to know now? What am I supposed to do? Maybe that’s not the right question because I just got my voice telling me that I’m not supposed to know or do anything. Maybe supposed is not the right word. I’m too tired and excited at the same time to figure it out, but you get the gist I’m sure.
I didn’t have any more dreams. I’ve been watching the drawings in that book religiously every night of that trip before I go to sleep. Although I’m not truly sincere when I say that I didn’t have any more dreams. I had at least one that I recall. It was like some news about a parallel self, one that got the virus. I dreamt about that other me before, he couldn’t breath and it hurt. I had wondered if he had died because I didn’t have any more dreams about him, until last night. He seemed ok, he had recovered quite well considering the difficulties. He was at a gathering with other people at some kind of Lebanese buffet. I’m not too fond of the spicy merguez sausages, I prefer the hummus.
Max is calling, diner is ready. He’s made lasagna, apparently he makes the the best lasagna in the whole camp. I’m not sure when will be the next time I contact you so far Whale.
- “The letters of Eleanor Dunbar Leslie to her parents and her sister in South Africa
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